My first contact with John would be around 1962-63.
I had joined the Workers’ Educational Association Film Study Group in Sydney. Not knowing much about cinema, but wanting to know everything, I thought this group would help me out.
Well, as it turned out, this was a very left-leaning bunch of film watchers, and John was almost always the leading light in the discussions we would have after screening the movie (which was often at the time a work from the French New Wave). Well, I had no idea what they were talking about.
These discussions opened up a new, completely different world of cinema to me. Frankly, for a long time I could not follow John’s recitation about the “jump cut” and all the other innovations of the new French cinema – a hot topic at the time. Anyhow, I started my own filmmaking in 8mm and I remember we had a long weekend with this group in Newport, Sydney and I screened some of my work.
Well, the group was “kind” to me. But I had the feeling John and the others did not really think this was the way to go. Amongst others I showed a short film, Mood (1964), which I thought was bordering on the experimental side of filmmaking. I had read a lot about the American underground cinema at that time but had never seen the films.
The WEA Film Study Group also screened a lot of Canadian and British shorts. In his introductions to the films, and during the discussions afterwards, John made a lasting impression on me.
So in 1967 I shot my first “documentary” in 16mm black-and-white, Isolated. However, the Experimental Cinema somehow drew me back in. In 1968 I made Red and Green and from then on I never stopped working in that genre.
It was in the mid-1970s that I met John by sheer accident on a very hot day on Darlinghurst Rd. in Sydney. And as we stood in the boiling sun discussing films he told me, much to my surprise, that he had changed his mind about the Experimental Cinema Movement. “Well”, he said, “there is now so much around and I studied it and must acknowledge there is more to it than I first realised”. I was very surprised but also happy that he had now changed his mind about this particular kind of film.
Sometime after that John invited me to do a radio interview in Melbourne where I had a screening of my films in a local co-op cinema. My film Brick Wall was mentioned on his radio show and we talked about how good it was that these films now had an audience at last, even though it will always be a small one.
In 1995 I had a retrospective of my films (“Paul Winkler: Films 1964-94”) at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. Here John introduced my films to the audience; he also took part in an ABCTV program on the Arts where he talked about my films and singled out Brick Wall.
That film surfaced again in a recent screening at the Melbourne Cinémathèque in a program called “Turning 80: A Celebration for John Flaus”.
And so we met again after many years. I am glad he is still around and forever receptive to the many different strands of filmmaking. He certainly opened up a new world of cinema to me in my very early years of becoming a filmmaker. Anyhow, you just stay in love with the movies John.