hick tears

Because I'm about to go to the deep south of the South Island for a weekend ... because I am so sick of sunny hot blue days ... because it was Easter Monday and I was hung over ... or just because ...

I went to see The World's Fastest Indian yesterday afternoon. It was disconcerting suddenly to find myself back in New Zealand in the 1960s. Or, a depiction of same. I can remember how, when someone had been away and came back, their loved ones would meet them and, instead of hugging or kissing or whatever, would stand around looking pleased and embarrassed. Blushing. The early sequences of the movie are like that: everyone pleased and embarrassed, with the exception of Anthony Hopkins who plays the lead: eccentric, bloody-minded, beneficent, obsessed Burt Munro.

Later Burt goes to the States with his bike and has adventures. These sequences put me painfully and nostalgically in mind of the time, in the late 1970s, when I went with a group of Kiwi musos to Los Angeles and San Francisco. With all of the naive optimism and good-hearted simple-minded fantaticism of Burt Munro. We were treated with great kindness, not unmixed with amusement, too. By most people. Though some did steal from us, not that that was very hard to do.

Burt makes it and then comes home again, where everyone stands around looking even more pleased and only slightly less embarrassed than they did before he went away.

It's a very sentimental film and I cried here and there involuntarily, like a kid, sometimes almost angrily wiping away the tears I did not want to be shedding.

In that part of New Zealand, there's a regional accent, people burr and roll their rrrrs; Anthony Hopkins got the burr alright but to my ear did not quite get the rest: those flat vowels that are reluctantly spoken, as if people were unwilling to let the sounds go out of their mouths. A minor point of verisimilitude perhaps: most reviews have praised his accent.

The film's been a huge hit in New Zealand, natch, the way Crocodile Dundee was here and for similar reasons; but it lacks the Croc's macho edge and flash, smart-arse stunts. Burt Munro's too much of a charmer, a sweetheart, ever to try to put one across anyone. The only time he gets angry it's very funny and there could perhaps have been more of that characteristic deadpan wickedly oblique abuse. Even when he races, he only races himself. Not only is he immune to embarrassment but the film, with great decency and tact, avoids the many opportunities there are to put one across him: a rarity these days, perhaps.

So I guess my tears were hick tears after all: embarrassment and recognition, all mixed up with love of home.

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