Friday, January 19, 2007

2007 PSIFF—General Dispatch On Palm Spring's Retirement Demographics

There was a snowy frost on the peaks surrounding Palm Springs, as well as on the audiences attending the festival's fare. Peter Martin—who covered the festival for Twitch last year—forewarned me the crowd would be senior but didn't tell me how young they would make me feel! In my mid-50s, I was a veritable spring chicken in this barnyard. That's not to say these senior cineastes were any less enthusiastic or entrenched in their cinematic habits. Some were even unruly; line chiselers never mature. They pretend they're daft and dotardly just to get to their favorite aisle seats. God forbid your head should be in the way of their subtitles.

I was quite amused by the various ways well-meaning elderly volunteers delivered house announcements before the screenings. They reminded audiences to hand in ballots (often instructing them on exactly how to tear them: not between the numbers and no more than half an inch in) and to turn off all phones, Blackberries, and other electronic devices that beep, buzz, light up, bark outloud, moan embarrassingly or that were—as one wry individual put it—not absolutely necessary to keep you alive. Sage advice for this particular crowd.

In line elderly matrons swapped Q&A tidbits like they were dishing dirt underneath beauty salon hairdryers. For some of them, buying a rush ticket was a thrill. Some filmgoers took pride in never leaving the Palm Springs Regal 9, the festival's main venue. That way they could catch up to six movies a day. True diehards only sampled the films and boasted that—through such methodology—they could experience nine movies a day! Petty dismissal seemed to be their prime form of criticism; but, come to think of it, that's not so different from several film critics I know.

It's great to be reminded, however, that old age nor infirmity does not have to deter anyone from appreciating film. One particular morning while waiting for the blessed (and downright brilliant!) Spa Resort Casino shuttles that transported me between venues, I counted no less than six cars that pulled up to the Palm Springs Regal where a devoted husband hopped out of the driver's seat, popped open the trunk, removed and unfolded a walker, and helped his movie-loving wife to the curb, jumping back into his car and whisking off—no doubt—to a belated round of golf.

Since returning to San Francisco, I've been having difficulty weaning away from pushing intersection buttons to cross the street. I keep hunting for them. They're all the rage in Palm Springs. They even talk to you. I've woken up screaming hearing: "El Segundo, walk sign is on the cross, El Segundo. Ten … nine … eight … seven …." In my more cruel moments I imagined adding the sound of a car crash or an explosion after that countdown purposely to alarm the blind. I know, I know. I'll burn in hell. Or, at the least, retire to Palm Springs where I can look forward to this wonderful annual festival with its informed programming, friendly audiences and some of the tastiest corned beef hash I've ever had at Sherman's Deli.

Cross-published (and slightly expanded) at Twitch.


Anonymous said...

Hilarious piece! I didn't notice you looking sidelong at a traffic pole when I bumped into you Monday after your return, though. So it must not be too ingrained a habit.

I'm in Salt Lake City, about to drive up the mountain to my first Park City screening!

Maya said...

Brian, how exciting! I hope you have a wonderful experience at Sundance and I look forward to hearing all about it when you get back Bayside.

And the only reason you didn't see me glancing sideways at a traffic pole when we ran into each other on Monday was because you DISTRACTED me, dontcha know? Heh.

Surely by the time you return from Park City, I'll be back to testing traffic with baby strollers.