We walk down Main Street to Flannagan’s Irish Pub for a glass of red wine, which itself is paradoxical. The women to our right, seated at the bar, drinking the more appropriate pints, ask our bartender who he’s seen this year. They mean celebrities. This is the last weekend of the Sundance Film Festival and the previously star-packed Park City now crawls with less-involved film appreciators. The barman looks back and kind of roles his eyes. “Oh there have been a few. Bon Jovi was in the other night playing a set with his son.” This doesn’t appease the woman. “Yeah, but like stars, like movie stars, like actors.” He looks back, “I dunno. I kinda try to keep out of the way of the crowds.” He’s referring to the 50,000 or so who pack into the small ski town for the festival’s first week. We sip our wine.
“But that’s what it all about,” the woman keeps at it, “picking out the famous people.” “No,” he counters rather seriously. He’s drawing a pint. “It’s all about great experimental film.”
And with that, we’re all acutely aware that the bartender at Flannagan’s for these two weeks is probably more cultured than we are, more up to date with avant garde cinematography, more ready to discuss independent versus big hollywood production. He is, and so is our cab driver. The cab man went to the science fiction fantasy film that has been getting a lot of buzz. “I’d recommend it. I liked it. It had great vision.” For some reason I find I accept his opinion like a critic. He’s a local. He’d driven the director a few days before. He tells us our fare.
The shuttles pass back and forth between theatre venues. The volunteers in puffy blue vests are almost too cheery, too excited. There’s even a mockery of the unHollywoodness happening. “Can’t let you into the theatre, hun. No movie stars allowed in,” one jokes.
Sundance works because it’s Park City. It’s jeans and boots and winter coats and good movies. It’s poor young artists and their fledgling films. It’s the big-time for the little guys and the interestingly small for the big guys. The conversations about lighting and storytelling and moderism would sound pretentious out of context, but for two weeks the town is a petri dish of upcoming visual culture. And the bartender knows it, and the waiter, and the cabbie. Sundance oozes cool onto Park City, and the town takes it entirely in stride.