Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Shockumentary film

In 1962 [the year I arrived in Paris], I was greatly impressed by a weird and notorious Italian movie, Mondo cane [dogs' world], which presented viewers with an anthology of all kinds of exotic and more-or-less shocking cases of human behavior throughout the world. Part of the charm of the movie came from its romantic theme music: the famous song entitled More [play].

It was in this film that I first heard of a fabulous belief system in the Pacific island of Vanuatu: the so-called cargo cult, whereby the natives had transformed their recollection and interpretation of recent military US military operations in the region into the foundations of a mythical religion. Their adoration of a mysterious American hero known as John Frum is amazing.

An article in Télérama reminds me that documentary films have been produced recently on this fabulous subject. The idea that the great US war machine could give rise to a religious cult, with all the appropriate symbols and iconic paraphernalia (including mock weapons and aircraft), appears to me as a modern page of Greek mythology.

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