Politics & Prejudices
Joel Landy's Detroit
The long-awaited renaissance is under way
Published: August 8, 2012
Lots of local film aficionados are excited about the opening of the much-ballyhooed film Detropia. Landy isn't one. He's not impressed at all, in fact, and he's a man at home with gritty.
"The producer-directors lived in my building for the year they were here. Their film [turned out to be] a very depressing look at Detroit." Not surprisingly, he told me the film uses the rotting hulk of Matty Moroun's Michigan Central Station as a symbol of Detroit.
"That's not a monument to anyone except one greedy businessman." Landy paused on his front porch, which might be a better metaphor for the city. Once great, better than it was, still in need of more work. Around his feet are architectural wonders — and empty cans of cat food Linda sets out for the half-feral native critters.
The filmmakers got overwhelmed by the devastation and decay, he told me. And there's no denying it's there; just wander a few blocks in from Joy Road and Southfield, for example.
"But a reality that brings hope is the thousands of people, young and old, who are moving here to work, live, invest and have that special vision to see through the grit and find the good."
My guess is that Joel Landy, eccentric as he is, is on to something. Detroit is coming back, or being reborn. Not in a way the hopeless clown politicians in city government can imagine.
Not in a way necessarily envisioned by the governor, or the nostalgic old whites in the suburbs who left in 1970. No, it will be something incredibly different, tough, vibrant and alive.
Landy and I may not live to fully see it; we both hit the big six-oh this year. But I think those cute kids in his Montessori school will.
William Butler Yeats has been dead since 1939, and never came to Detroit. But his poem "The Second Coming" asked the right question for our times. "What rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"
My guess is that when it comes to prophets, I'd trust Joel Landy to recognize that beast more than I would Dave Bing.
Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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