January 17, 2007
Sundance is not only about films and live music and traffic jams at the liquor stores. As much as anything, it’s about waiting, and then flying across town at breakneck speed so you can wait some more. It’s about queuing-up so you can queue-up again at some further point. What it’s really about is manipulating the elasticity of time.
So, unless you possess a smattering of social skills and can actually survive in an environment crammed with fellow carbon-based life forms, you must learn to hold sway over the manner in which sequential relationships come to pass. You learn to maneuver, and thereby influence, the interval spacing between events.
This is a process by which long-proven tools of the trade come to play. Books are best, but newspapers, magazines, crossword puzzles, and film guides also have great value. Of course, there are always the ever-present water bottles and the cell phone with which to fill the dance card. It’s about compressing or stretching whatever moment one is in.
If the errant mind is not occupied, "it" — the all-consuming waiting — becomes the enemy. Although seldom unbearable, it does play the boredom card. There are moments that occur during film fest lineups, however, that you never want to end — unplanned encounters with unexpected icons, for example. Charlie Sexton episodes, you call them.
For the most part, though, when one is all stoked and jonesin’ for one of those quite obscure offerings of film or music that Sundance so well exploits, well then, time drags to the point where it crawls by on hands and knees looking for anything less humdrum than itself. And it most always comes up empty.
This year there will be an additional tool brought to bear — the perfect device to shout to those around you, in case they had yet to get the point, that for you, anything beats social interaction. That would be the "iPod," an apparatus one needn’t even turn on to ward off friendly counsel. All you have to do is stick those things in your ears and feign concentration. What a wonderful invention.
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But if you do decide to turn it on, you would find amid the Dylan, Beiderbecke, Miles, Monk, Coltrane, Bukowski, Bird, Django, Piaf, Hank, Trudell, Cash, Hooker, Haggard, Yeats, Satchmo, Lucinda, Gauthier, Townes, Stones, Rufus, T-Bone, Taj, Hendrix, Woody, and Yo-Yo-Ma, a wondrous reading of "The Hummingbird’s Daughter" by author Luis Alberto Urrea. However else you deem their worth, there is no line longer than an iPod.
But back to books-as-best. Past members of the Sundance line Hall of Fame are Henry Miller, Pablo Neruda, Octavio Paz, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Flann O’Brien, William Gibson, Gary Snyder, Linda Hogan, Anne Sexton, Toni Morrison, assorted Paris Reviews, and works concerning Frida Kahlo and Maynard Dixon.
A book of interviews, articles and reviews on Jackson Pollock gets tossed in the bag most every year — as did, until the collection had been exhausted, one of Patrick O’Brian’s "Aubrey-Maturin" novels. Literature, poetry and art books lend themselves seamlessly as in-line fare due to the fact that each inclusion has a way of standing alone, out of any evident context, free and self-contained.
They are easily insinuated into moments where tedium, monotony or weariness holds forth — the alchemy of syntax or the epiphany of image turning the routine into the extraordinary. You become free to ponder within an aura of pleasure — your time spent in line waiting now part of the whole. That’s right! Totally spacing-out is a worthy goal.
Ingredients for this year’s in-line recipe will only waver slightly from the past. Satchel space has so far been reserved for the new Richard Powers (admittedly rather hefty for such duty), a recently released paperback collection of Paris Review interviews, and current issues of the Mountain Gazette and the Bloomsbury Review.
And, of course, a Saturday Park Record with the New York Times Sunday Magazine crossword puzzle is a must. Puzzle editor Will Shortz came to town last year as part of the entourage for the film "Wordplay," an entry in the Sundance documentary competition and a most interesting look at the crossword culture and its annual tournament.
A mug of coffee and extra water bottles also come into play depending on whether the film you are currently standing in line for is an early morning screening or not. In these instances, something with which to "break fast" is also a consideration. Remember to keep these items under wraps, however, lest crumbs inundate your tote-of-choice.
The current festival Film Guide is also mandatory — as much for getting a sense of the various panels and group gropes that occur as sidebars to the films themselves as for sneaking a peek into what the current crop of "indie" filmmakers have on their plate. And, of course, you can read about all the films you won’t be seeing.
Ah, but there is always the "Music Café" to soothe the savage beast. While this year’s lineup features many more unfamiliar acts than those of the past, you just know that there will be diamonds-in-the-rough aplenty when all is said and done. The overriding sense is that if ASCAP doesn’t have its finger on who’s new-and-in-the-groove, who does?
"Donovan" is the biggest name — at least for those who were around town for the heyday of the "stem-christie" and "reverse-shoulder" up on the slopes. If memory serves, the "wet-look" and the "jet-turn" also achieved a certain eminence during that timeframe. Not to mention the somewhat exotic aromas emanating from the gondola cabins.
But that was then and this is now and, this week, it’s all about getting your ducks in line for the time you will spend in the queue. Much of this is more than likely moot, in that your inability to acquire a parking space close enough to the venue could mean the line has already snaked inside by the time you get there. Oh well, that means, if you hurry, you could be first in the queue for your next film.