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Issue #1695      July 29, 2015

Culture & Life

Ukraine, demonic possession and movies

Did you see the reports of the news conference given by the Ukrainian Major-General who defected to the Donetsk People’s Republic in Donbas? Hardly surprising if you didn’t – as far as I can tell, it was essentially blanked out of the regular news bulletins. But you can be sure that if a Major-General from the breakaway regime in Donetsk had defected to Kiev he would have featured on every news bulletin – and at length.

Casablanca – glorious B&W cinematography – so simple, but so effective.

Unfortunately, Major-General Alexander Kolomiyets, a former aide to the Ukrainian Defence Minister, chose to side with the anti-fascists in Donetsk rather than the fascists who are doing the USA’s bidding in Kiev.

General Kolomiyets, who spent 19 years serving as military commandant of the Donetsk Region, told the press conference that Ukrainian army morale was very low “with all generals and officers realising the criminal nature of Kiev’s actions and refusing to fight any longer.”

Alexander Kolomiyets is not the first senior Ukrainian military officer to have sided with the anti-fascists in Donetsk and Lugansk. Oleh Chernousov, the former head of the Lugansk customs service, as well as two Ukrainian intelligence service operatives stationed in Paris, all moved to Lugansk in opposition to the anti-people policies of the NATO-backed Kiev regime.

And did you see – a month or two earlier – the newspaper reports on the growth of demonic possession in Australia? Apparently the spread of demonic possession, and the corresponding growth in the number of exorcisms to deal with it, is a symptom of “the great apostasy – [people] turning their backs on God”, at least according to Father Gregory Jordan, the former official exorcist for the Archdiocese of Brisbane.

And lest you think that having an “official exorcist” shows how nutty people in Queensland can be, Father Jordan points out that every one of the 28 dioceses in Australia is required to have one by Canon Law. Before he retired, combating demonic possession kept Father Jordan pretty busy. “Sometimes I’d have three [exorcisms] a week, sometimes one a day.”

According to an article in Rupert Murdoch’s British flagship The Times, a British priest claims the growth in pornography and drug addiction are responsible for the increased demand for exorcisms. Claiming your son’s enjoyment of porn (or your daughter’s drug addiction) is the result of possession by devils or demons, may be balm to your conscience but it does not begin to tackle what are very real problems.

What a sad commentary on the level of education in Australia, that there could be that many people in just one diocese seeking to blame their problems (great and small) on possession by evil spirits. It’s as though the Renaissance (let alone the Enlightenment) never happened, as though the ignorance of the Middle Ages just continued on into modern times, unchanged.

There was an article in The Age in April which I had better deal with now before it gets totally out of date! The article was headed “Hollywood enlisted to battle IS appeal” but it wasn’t just IS that Hollywood was being enlisted to “battle”. No, it was also Russia.

US Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy, Richard Stengel, attempted to rouse the support of Sony Pictures Chief Executive Michael Lynton with this heartfelt plea: “We have plenty of challenges in countering IS narratives in the Middle East and Russian narratives in central and eastern Europe.

“In both cases, there are millions and millions of people in those regions who are getting a skewed version of reality.” Now that’s a bit of a giggle, isn’t it? Globally, there must be a couple of billion people who are getting a skewed version of reality courtesy of the US State Department’s disinformation campaigns backed up by Rupert Murdoch and his fellow media barons.

As for the Russians, apparently their perception of US foreign policy is not as favourable to US interests as the US would like it to be. That could be altered if the US stopped trying to overthrow governments it didn’t get along with, stopped assassinating people with drone strikes, stopped waging war all over the world. That’s probably a bit much to ask, however.

Two great joys of my life were the discovery of foreign films and then the discovery of the wonders of the silent cinema of the 1920s. The first foreign language film I saw was La Ronde, but it was not until I saw Sergei Eisenstein’s masterpiece Ivan The Terrible in a lovely 35mm print that watching a film became a physical experience for me. This was filmmaking of extraordinary power.

Later still I discovered the amazing power of the great filmmakers of the silent era to tell moving, dynamic stories entirely in visual terms. A revelation, and a welcome corrective to the dialogue-heavy films by filmmakers who have forgotten that the seventh art is supposed to be a visual art.

Cinematography is the creation of mood through the interplay of light and shadow. But if one tries to think of great cinematography, as opposed to just great scenery, I can only think of black and white films, not colour films. How about you?

I watched Casablanca again the other night. Glorious B&W cinematography – so simple, but so effective. Such wonderful use of shadows, close-ups, swaying lights. It is also helped by the great acting of its talented cast, of course.

I was manning the box-office one night at the Mandolin Cinema (now the Australian Hall in Elizabeth St in Sydney) when a chap came up and was introduced to me. He seemed almost overawed to meet a “genuine film buff” and diffidently asked me: “I bet you know the name of the piano player in Casablanca!”

As it happened I did, so I gave him a “doesn’t everyone?” look and said with a rising inflection, “Dooley Wilson?” He was flabbergasted. Thank God he didn’t ask me for any other display of such esoteric knowledge, for my ability to remember film credits is notoriously hopeless! But I must say, I enjoyed the moment.

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