Sunday, October 10, 2010

Two treats in one night

A year after it opened I finally made it to Detroit’s Burton Theatre (3420 Cass Ave. just south of Martin Luther King Blvd.) The Burton is an art house cinema created in an auditorium of the former Burton International School (picture at left, web site link at right). And it truly specializes in art house cinema, more so than, say, Landmark’s Main or Maple (which I’ll politely describe as showing mainstream art house). My first post about the cinema was Jan. 11. In that post, a reference to a NY Times story about Detroit entrepreneurs developing businesses in the largely abandoned city, the Burton’s Nathan Faustyn said investors wanted to do something to help make Detroit a more liveable place.....So it was appropriate that the first film I saw there was this weekend’s Detroit Wild City by French director Florent Tillon.....Tillon’s picture is a kind of meditative documentary about the ruins of Detroit, the abandoned city against the backdrop of the industrial powerhouse it was and, towards the film’s end, thoughts on what it could become......There is something in the film of the clichéd outsider’s take on Detroit – the fascination with urban ruins or “urban ruin porn” as it’s been called. But the picture stands on its own as an absorbing piece of filmmaking, as we follow denizens of the city who find a way to live in it and indeed embrace their corners of it whether as an urban gardener or everyday handyman. A sombre piano score helps give meaning to these starkly beautiful shots of burned out buildings, deserted streets and urban prairie, places at once familiar yet filmed from perspectives that make you wonder exactly where that is.....A Q & A with the director (who attended the screening Saturday night) had most in the audience praise the beautiful images of juxtaposed ruins against nature or sunsets though one man found the movie “empty.” I think he meant devoid of life because the Detroit he knows, as physically eviscerated as it is, still has people who bring any place some normality. Regardless, Detroit Wild City is a beautiful look at a stunningly decayed urban environment.

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