I’m a sucker for anything melancholy but uplifting, miserable but inspiring, nostalgic but optimistic. It’s why I love disco. Take a listen to the lyrics of Young Hearts Run Free and tell me that’s not a depressing message hidden behind a dance masterpiece.
Anyway. This weekend, a few things made me feel that odd combination.
Saturday - A Woman’s Place is in the Resistance
If you weren’t distracted by Berlin Fashion Week or the Australian Open, you may have heard about the inauguration of a new president this week.
Yes, that’s right!
Gambia has a new president!
Oh right. The other one. The more dangerous one. The one that sparked millions of women around the world to stand in solitary and follow those who marched on Washington to protest his inauguration. The gloomy part of this is that it had to be done at all, and made all the worse by the number of people getting vocal about how it was “unnecessary”, dismissing it as “whining” or protesting that “women are equal, what else do they want?”
Sadly, all of those are direct quotes from my Facebook newsfeed. I’m not going to attempt to answer them. Others have explained in far better words than I possibly could, and it isn’t my place. My role as an ally is to listen, to understand the problem, and to support without getting in the way.
So in this position, I was lucky enough to experience the Women’s March on London with an old housemate and her family. I’m so glad I did. If I’d followed it from this side of a laptop screen, flicking through photos of smiling people in colourful t-shirts, collages of funny rally signs and videos of the speakers, I wouldn’t have got the energy, the overwhelming feeling you only get when surrounded a hundred thousand of people brought together by one cause. Chanting, singing, encouraging and marching forward.
At a time like that it’s impossible not to feel hopeful. It gives you a belief in the power we have when we take the time and the effort to be good to each other. It gives you faith in people, so no matter how miserable things look on your Twitter feed, you can always feel inspired.
Sunday - La La Land
I grew up with Singin’ in the Rain, West Side Story and High Society on hard rotation at home, so golden-age Hollywood musicals are in my soul, and La La Land could have been a big let-down. It could have tried to pastiche the classics, or update them in a way that took away the magic. Plus, everyone is going on about “Oscar Buzz” which is never a good sign.
I loved it more than I can describe.
The problem is, I don’t want to talk about the second half, because I want you to go and see it for yourself. So I’ll talk around it. Specifically, the way the film handles the relationship between Seb (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) is so achingly real, I had to stay in my seat for a minute or so at the end to let it sink in, while everyone around me was leaving. As someone who has suffered both from a proper full-on heartbreak, and suffered from being a musician, it was heavy.
(Tip: Stay away from musicians, they aren’t worth it)
But after saying a muted goodbye to the friend who went with me, I started smiling and couldn’t stop. The film had that sublime rush of pushing for a dream that you know is totally unattainable, utterly exhausting, but totally worth it. The unapologetically romantic idea of the one person who was, and always will be, the perfect parallel to your stupidly idyllic aspiration of what “love” is.
I mean, I don’t know about you… if that’s not what we go to the cinema for, what the hell is?
PS I know that “a few” means three. Well, on Saturday night I went to a friend’s birthday. Happy, right? It was in Clapham. I’m from North London. The two just don’t go well together.