Image: Flaus as the priest in Newsfront (Phillip Noyce, 1978)
I met John Flaus on 5 October 1963. I had been in Australia for only a little more than two months, having arrived from England as a £10 Pom. For four years prior to my departure I had organised a film society in my home town, and as a passionate filmgoer with very broad tastes I arrived in Sydney fearful that I would be unable to keep up with the medium I loved so much. The only Australian I knew had moved to a distant country town prior to my arrival.
But on that October day I spotted an ad in The Sydney Morning Herald announcing a weekend of Eisenstein films at the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA). Although I’d seen every Eisenstein film except one (October) already, I seized the opportunity to meet like-minded people and enrolled. The course was conducted by John and the moment he started to speak I felt at home. This was a man who knew his subject inside and out but who, unlike most film academics in Britain at the time, was clearly very eclectic in his tastes. When he evoked Gary Cooper (I forget in exactly what context) I was in heaven. Any country where there were film enthusiasts who admired Eisenstein and “Coop” was the right place for me.
It was a great weekend, not only for the informed talks and discussions, but because, through John, I was able to meet like-minded film people and as a direct result was on my way towards my appointment as Director of the Sydney Film Festival less than three years later.
I’ve never forgotten hearing John speak that weekend, and in subsequent years I’ve always enjoyed his company on the rare occasions we see one another. His writing on film has been inspirational, and I’ve also been impressed by his onscreen performances: his cameo as the Catholic priest in Newsfront (Phillip Noyce, 1978) is spot-on, funny and chilling in equal proportions.
Thank you, John, for everything. You have been an inspiration.