Friday, September 28, 2012
Dallas movie The Mayor peeks in on senior citizen love
Sam Berger, 88, is The Mayor, a player and all around optimist.
The Mayor — Official Trailer
DALLAS Many people try to prevent the physical symptoms of aging with the use of cosmetics, surgery, and prescription drugs. Fear of this natural process perpetuates a whole industry of devoted to falsifying hair, skin, and energy to match the good old days of adolescence. But the residents at the Town Village North senior living center in North Dallas embrace their seniority, showing that age is a state of mind.
The documentary entitled The Mayor, playing September 30 at The Dallas Museum of Art as part of the 25th Dallas VideoFest, explores the subject of what people do when they get old. At first, the absolute normalcy of life at Town Village North is surprising as the tenants, most above 80-years-old, discuss companionship, love, and loss. From then on, the viewer is taken on an emotional rollercoaster ride that spans laughter, awkwardness, and tears.
The film opens with our main character, Sam Berger, also known as The Mayor around the complex. Though he’s not entirely sure how he earned that nickname, Berger supposes it’s because of the friendly and often nurturing essence by which he interacts with other residents, especially the women. At the ripe age of 88, Berger is a widow, single a second time after having outlived a girlfriend at Town Village North. He's currently in the throes of a relationship with a much younger woman. In his opinion, you’re never too old to stop chasing tail, though the physical aspects of a relationship have hardly anything to do with that attraction.
The documentary follows several other members of the Town Village North community, including the community gossip queen Cecelia Schwartz and her husband of 62 years, Ed. They openly discuss the prominent issues of body type, sexual desire, and gender roles in their relationship in front of the cameras with hilarity and modest embarrassment in their voices. The brash honesty between the two long-time lovers is astounding and encompasses the theme of the documentary: loneliness.
“People think when you get older, you don’t want anybody to love you or anything. That’s not so,” explains Dorothy June Wyll, a widow living at Town Village North who decided never to remarry. “Just ‘cause you’re older doesn’t mean you don’t want somebody to hug you or kiss you … Just ‘cause you’re older doesn’t mean you have to lay down and die.”
While The Mayor does not breach any sensitive or controversial issues, it takes some acclimation. Age is the great unknown — you can never understand what it is like to be older than you currently are — and watching it is mildly uncomfortable. This documentary forces the viewer to face the realities of growing saggy, incapable, and even mentally disconnected, all in a very self-reflexive way. It begs the question, What makes the ego get in the way of this natural life process?
You're sure to learn something in The Mayor. One memorable sequence follows the namesake character on his morning routine to groom and dress himself, which is accompanied by consistent heavy panting. Berger has to use a great deal of effort to raise his feet onto his knee to put on his socks and shoes, and expresses great frustration when he spills one of the many pill bottles he sifts through every day. At the end of it, you’d expect him to complain, but he doesn’t.
“I’m having a ball. It’s paradise for me,” Berger says. As it should be.
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