Young at Heart

May 18, 2005 at 12:00 am

When directors cast Detroit, whether in starring or supporting roles, it’s usually depressing. Maybe that’s why some Wayne State University faculty decided to address the city’s cinematic image in its annual film fest, a five-day event dubbed MovingMedia. The theme: “The myth of Detroit.” Features include Poletown Lives!, Taking Back Detroit, the premiere of Sue Carman-Vian’s Candy Store, a Michael Moore retrospective, WSU student films and forums with filmmakers and academics to discuss Detroit on the silver screen.

Serving as a memorable antidote to all that’s hopeless, the fest will screen local filmmaker Sue Marx’s Young at Heart, a 1987 Academy Award winner for short documentary. In 30 minutes, Marx tells the striking tale of her father and his companion, both widowed painters in their 80s when they meet. The film is simple and straightforward, almost quaint; a welcome shot of old-fashioned storytelling.

And what a story Marx has to tell. Reva Shwayder and Louis Gothelf have more verve than many people in their 20s and credit their shared passion — painting — and active lifestyles for keeping them alive, healthy and happy. The two meet on a group painting trip to England in 1986. The spark catches on the 747 as it heads toward the UK and grows back at the hotel.

“I moved in with Louis because he had a big room and he didn’t object at all. And then we became very friendly,” Shwayder says, breaking into a big smile.

At first in the film, the couple say they will cohabitate but not marry.

“You get married when you’re young so the kids have a father,” Shwayder says. But marriage is a “strange” thing, she says.

“Sometimes a perfectly nice man can annoy you to death,” Shwayder says.

Having lost her husband to cancer and her two grown sons to fatal accidents, the CCS grad had no interest in traditional woman’s work.

“Housework is the worst enemy of an artist. I don’t care for it,” she says.

Watching the couple argue in the Detroit Institute of Arts is priceless.

“This is my favorite painting. I know you are going to say, ‘What’s so beautiful about it?’” Shwayder says.

“So what? So what?” Gothelf says, scoffing at the abstract color piece.

“Look at that red, how it vibrates,” she says.

“It doesn’t vibrate,” he shoots back.

Marx says the family was shocked to find her father shacking up with a woman and more shocked when they decided to marry. He was 85; she was 84. But viewers are not surprised.

“I feel I miss her when I’m not with her,” Gothelf says. They kiss in Shwayder’s garden and joke and laugh. The couple’s love for life, art and each other is truly inspiring.


Showing Friday, May 20, at 7 p.m. at Schaver Recital Hall on WSU Campus, with other selections. The MovingMedia runs May 17-21; for the festival schedule, visit

Lisa M. Collins writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].