Apocalypse Now - the collapse and decay of Detroit
Julien Temple's film about the construction and destruction of Detroit, America's fourth largest city, is a shocking and mind-blowing vision of Man's pursuit of Utopia - in partnership with the Devil. As with much of the American Dream the city was built on a greedy and sinister lie. Lured by the General Motors Company and the promise of work and housing and a regular salary on the production line, people flocked to Detroit from the 1920's onwards in their thousands - many were poor black country folk from the Deep South. Out of the prairie a vast factory was born with high rise buildings, grand houses, five- star hotels, stadiums and theatres, schools, churches, highways and fancy stores selling furs and diamonds. The ownership of a car became not just a dream but a necessity and thus the Consumer Society was born. Segregation was part of the plan and the black folk lived in an area named Black Bottom and the white folk lived as far away as possible. Temple has the facility to educate with images and does not use any political jargon or persuasion. He lets archive footage of the assembly line workers, the race riots of 1967, the huge-finned cars and the society functions speak for itself, and it sure does, with a vengeance. Detroit today is a shambolic ruin, crumbling, gaping, overgrown, broken and battered. It is hard not to believe that Hurricane Katrina has passed by here. The once orderly production like is just a track among columns stripped of copper by local people desperate to earn a few bucks. Trees grow from the fractured roofs of the stately old Department store and theatre. 50,000 homes have been destroyed and thousands remain burnt and vandalised carcasses. But, and this is the most extraordinary thing about the film, out of the ashes a Phoenix is rising. The local people are making a fresh start and some of these people as they talk honestly and with great dignity and wisdom, make one's heart soar and feel hope for mankind. If all the people in Detroit are as remarkable as those found by Temple then a truly wonderful thing will have come out of the dark and deadly times.
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