As I paid the bill and the waitress asked me if we had any plans for the night.

We’re going to see La La Land.

Oh? I want to see that.  Is it a chick flick?

It has Ryan Gosling in it.

Yeah, it’s probably a chick flick.

I haven’t been into the main theatre of the Paramount since I went to see The Room.  The house for The Room was full, but for La La Land it is pretty average.  I’m not sure why, but the Paramount always feels like a second choice theatre, and maybe it feels that way for a lot of people.  Still, with Reading closed I expected more people here.

For some reason, a long time ago, we went to see Evita at the movies.  The first scene might be in a dark bar with Antonio Banderas pulled up to it.  It might not.  I’m drawing on a harshly repressed memory.  Anyway, I vividly remember the moment Antonio turns his head away from the bar and towards the camera and begins to sing.  Everything inside me died (it recovered later, don’t be alarmed).  I mention this because I had a similar experience at the start of La La Land.

But that changed.  Slowly, and then suddenly.

I often come out of movies a bit disappointed.  This is what I want when I leave a movie: I want to find the real world jarring as I emerge into it again.  That doesn’t happen very often.  Mostly I hang on to myself, and do not escape, and the world afterwards is not changed by some internal transfiguration in me – transformed as I hope to be by art.

Who knows, is this the start of something wonderful and new

Or one more dream that I cannot make true?


That was the moment, when Sebastian was singing those lines on a pier in the dusk, that I went from the theatre and over into the world of the movie.  Maybe the problem isn’t with movies, maybe the problem is with cynicism and the blunting of age, it gets harder to get pulled across the line from the theatre seat into the world of the movie.  We know too much where the shadows on the wall in front of us come from.

I shouldn’t have liked the big number in the planetarium, but I did.  I liked it because I loved Rebel With a Cause when I saw it, and because the music begins with a woodwind phrase which evokes – for me – Debussy, and because when you see two characters you like in a film who are flirting along the line of love you hope they fall in love.  Even if heartache is guaranteed.

Who knows, is this the start of something wonderful and new

Or one more dream that I cannot make true?


The magic of the film then stirred in me the desire to be better myself, to live a better life, to be a better person.  I am a romantic, an idealist.  A disappointed one.  Disappointed in myself first and most.  It’s art that covers the cracks up, and makes me feel hopeful.  So the fantasy on the screen stirred up fantasy in myself. For a time.

Afterwards, when we came downstairs and out onto Courtney Place, it was a shock to be out in Wellington on Friday night: the clamour of the bars, the warmth of the evening breeze chasing the cars through red lights.  And the beggars.  And the young couples brushing hands as they swung away up the footpath.  But this was not a movie set, the gutters not swept clean, the streetlights not props to dance around.  Not a place for romance then but romance lives in it.

Something wonderful and new, and a dream you cannot make true.

Published by


I wrote a book called Kaitiaki o te Pō