Friday, February 3, 2012

Michigan Film Festival

Michigan Theater marquee
This time last year, I was attending multiple film festivals (one, two, and three) at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.  With multiple film festivals in DC and the Sundance Film Festival happening right now, I have tried to incorporate a little bit of that into life this semester as a 1L.  

The first film I saw in my version of a film festival was Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.  The film, directed by Tomas Alfredson, is set during the Cold War and the protagonist, retired spy George Smiley, is forced out of retirement to uncover a Soviet agent suspected of being in MI6's echelons.  It is a really well-made film that has a subdued tone and not a ton of dialogue, forcing the viewer to really pay attention to detail and the other cues to understand what is happening.

The second film in the festival thus far is the Academy Award nominated The Artist.*  Directed by Michel Hazanavicius and starring Jean Dujardin, The Artist is about a silent movie star in 1927 Hollywood whose stardom is threatened by the arrival of talking pictures.  Everything about the film is thoroughly enjoyable all the way through and the music is fantastic.  It really feels like watching a movie from the 1920s and is rightly a strong Oscar contender.

What made watching each of these films even better was the location itself.  Ann Arbor is home to the historic Michigan Theater on Liberty Street.  The theater was built in 1928 and has been restored over the years back to its original style, making it the perfect place to see a film like The Artist or Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

view of the Michigan Theater from Liberty Street
One of my favorite things in the Michigan Theater is the Barton Theatre Pipe Organ in the main screening room.  The organ was built in 1927 and apparently is one of the few organs from this time period to still remain in its original location.  When we saw each film, there was a man in a tailcoat playing the organ before the previews started.  In the main screening room, the organ sits on a platform that can be raised to the stage level or lowered into the orchestra pit.

Barton Theater Pipe Organ, Main Room
*Saturday Night Live did a parody of The Artist with Jean Dujardin.  Enjoy.

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