A house of dreamsA cinema in Yangon. The images shown were part of a larger photographic project concerning Love & Loss (The Day After This Night : Love and Loss in the Orient - Further information, including exhibition review and book link, appears under the gallery below)
A house of dreams
A magical moment.
As dusk falls, I see down a side street a wonderful faded theatre, built in classical Victorian style. However as I approach it I realize that it is now a cinema; and on entering the lobby, the interior was clearly refitted with glorious art deco features sometime in the 1920’s or ‘30s and has barely been touched since.
I wander in and meet the attendant who always seems to be working is such places. The film is already playing. I gesture to the magnificence of the place and ask if I can walk around. I sense he wants to say no, but he is not quite sure how to.
The lobby and the first floor are simply delicious, and I ask my new friend if I might watch the film. He is all apologetic smiles, but explains the film is nearly over. I gesture that I am very happy to pay for my ticket. He keeps nodding no and I keep suggesting how good it would be if I could. Finally he agrees to let me see a moment of the film at least. He refuses any offer of money, and we enter into the pitch darkness.
A glorious and appallingly acted film plays out in dramatic style. These are the films where women put their hand to their brow to feign despair; they look concerned and the men drink whiskey oblivious to the real turn of dramatic events as the story unfold. After a few minutes, we exit and naturally he thinks his work is done.
I feel emboldened. With the gesture of a hand turning an old camera, I ask to meet the projectionist and point to the roof. He tries to resist. I assure him that he is a wonderful man and that it would be marvelous if we did go. Neither of us speak the same language, and we act out our roles & gestures in a manner befitting the dramatic style of the film. He sort of agrees, first walking behind me and then in front, and then again offering me the opportunity to go first. We climb into the gods of the building, up an iron spiral staircase, only to discover that heaven really does exist.
A lovely man, sweating in 100 degrees heat, is working inside a teak framed glass box, with two projection machines out of 1930’s hollywood…great reels turning, rolls of film on the floor, a big clock, cobwebs everywhere, and a dual viewing window reveals the film on the screen far below. The projectionist is gorgeous – all of about 5’2′, he can’t stop smiling. He is so excited at my visit and wants to show me everything – the equipment, his clock, his charts on the wall, his freshly ironed shirt for the journey home from work. His evening is truly complete when I insist that he be in the picture (his having moved out the way when I raised my camera, modestly assuming that I wouldn’t be interested in him).
There the story ends; such an exquisite 20 minutes. This place where so many people’s dreams are fed and sustained, and I can’t believe my luck in coming across it…and my own audacity at creating the experience. I am such a different man when released from the daily grind; but then I think we all, when allowed to escape ourselves and enter a house of dreams.
The images shown were part of a larger, three year photographic project:
The Day After This Night: Love and Loss in the Orient
Exhibition Review – Please Visit>
To view extracts from the book – Please Visit>
All images & text Copyright Michael C Hughes