Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Old Men and the Cinema


Movies are one of the great deals in San Miguel.  With a government-issued “Third Age” discount card tickets cost about four dollars, and that includes premieres which, inexplicably, sometimes show up here a few days before the U.S. The discount doesn’t apply to 3-D movies and that’s just as well because all those special effects can tax the senses of some of the seven guys in our moviegoers group, all of us après-Medicare, and each with particular infirmities.

“Third Age” (“Tercera Edad”) is a charming Mexican euphemism for “over the hill” or “old as dirt.” It reminds me of the Billy Crystal line about the three ages of men: boyhood, manhood and you look fantastic! (particularly if you forget your dentures and the person offering the compliment is staring at your gums).

Ultimately Third Age cards are superfluous because who are we kidding? Certainly not the eighteen-year-olds at the box office who can spot a gringo geezer from across the lobby and will print a discounted ticket before you even ask.  

Local movie bargains have their limitations. Mexican distributors have ascertained that the intellectual level of audiences in San Miguel to be about ten inches off the ground, so flicks tend toward the wham-bang variety; the more guns, blood, noise and vampires the better. No point waiting for a Fellini or Bergman retrospective at our cinema.

A local café owner tries to fill that culture gap by selling hundreds of DVDs, the provenance of which is a mystery as profound as the Immaculate Conception. Like so many other things in Mexico, where his movies come from falls under the category of don’t ask, don’t tell.

His vast catalog includes everything from arcane PBS and BBC films and documentaries, film classics and TV shows, to recent releases. Juan, or Jack the Ripper as his known among expats, on occasion sells movies—all of them first-quality and all for forty pesos—to coincide with their official release in the U.S. One of the Bourne films actually got here before it opened in the U.S.

Most English-language movies here are subtitled except those for children, which are dubbed into Spanish. Subtitling can lead to problems. A couple of years ago gringos were excited about the arrival of the appropriately-titled Brad Pitt film “Babel.” Problem was that the dialogue was in English, Berber (a Moroccan type of Arabic), French and Japanese—with Spanish subtitles. Meditate on that, particularly if you can’t read Spanish.

After our movie group has agreed on a movie, and a place to eat beforehand, seating arrangements are the next hurdle. One of our members lost sight in one eye so he prefers to sit in the middle and close to the screen.

But two of us who have tinnitus prefer to sit towards the back so we don’t aggravate the ringing in our ears. That’s a particular problem at our local cinema where the teenagers romping around in the control booth like to set the volume loud enough to rattle the light fixtures.  When we went to see the latest James Bond movie my friend thoughtfully ran to the bathroom to get a length of toilet paper which we shared and fashioned into ear plugs. I felt as if other people were staring at the wads of toilet paper sticking out of our ears, but so what. 

Another member of our group has a problem with his left knee, and he likes to sit at the left end of the aisle, so he can extend his leg. But a couple of people in our group also have jittery bladders which usually send them fleeing to the bathroom about forty-five minutes into the movie. To avoid stumbling over other people with better control of their bodily functions, they prefer to sit at the right end of the aisle, close to the exit.

How should we accommodate all these age-related preferences? Split up and let everyone sit wherever is most personally convenient? Add a doctor or nurse practitioner to our group to decide on the best compromise seating arrangement depending on who came along and their personal ailments?

Someone said that getting old is a pain, and never is that clearer than when you go to the movies in San Miguel—no  matter how cheap they are.

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