Wednesday 19 August 2009

On being silent

The Man in the Hat is a local film, a documentary about Peter MacLeavey, who is a well-known Wellington art dealer. For forty years, he has run his gallery from two white rooms on the first floor of a seedy building on Cuba Street. The rather messy entrance is squeezed between a dairy on one side and another shop - a jewellers' called Hemp? - on the other. You go up some stairs with plump bannisters, walls and woodwork painted white - not recently - weave your way around the stairwell to find the door to the gallery, a square room with the artworks, and Peter is there too, in the little room next to it which is barely furnished. Lots of light. He is always mild, always open to people. A calm man.


The film has a definite slow rhythm, both visually and musically. Certain sequences are repeated - not often, briefly. Shots of him taken from a distance, sitting still , doing nothing. Lying on the ancient sofa under the window, looking at the lovely old ceiling, where a little white airplane flies in the white expanse.

They show him getting dressed for work, a deliberate thoughtful act in front of the long mirror in his bedroom: "These are my vestments". Towards the end of the film, he comments on his working life: "Some days nobody comes, some days two or three people come. I spend most of my working day in silence" - [not an exact quote].

A large part of the film follows him walking to work, a light step, tidy and conservative in his dark suit. He speaks to people easily. There appears to be no judgement of the person. They show the quality of acceptance. He has a great eye for art and much kindness (this I know for myself). He is a fine person. Also I think, an intelligent man, with the confidence that comes with it. I was glad his wife was in the film too.

P who is not much interested in art as a rule, went to Cuba Street after the show: "I looked up and I saw him through the window, just like in the film, talking on the phone." But he didn't go in.

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