Video Clips

Blog Archive July 2008

Yesterday RTE broadcast Mass live from the top of Croagh Patrick - a first, apparently. I'll probably use clips from this when I'm doing Eucharist in school - Archbishop Michael Neary said the Mass in a mass-rock type setting, and there was a traditional music group providing instrumental music along with a young women's choir. The hymns were mostly traditional, but there were some Liam Lawton songs as well. I was reminded of a Eurovision Mass from the Alps a few years ago I often use clips from that too, there was an excellent choir singing French hymns and a brass band as well. That time it was all blues and whites, sky and snow, but this time it was strongly green from County Mayo!

Got to See the film Road to Perdition again last night. Tom Hanks, excellent as always, plays Michael Sullivan, a gangster in US prohibition times. His son Michael is curious about his work, and is shocked when he sees his father involved in a murder. More tragedies follow as father and son take to the highways to avoid a hired assassin. The cinematography is beautiful, the music striking, the characterisations reflective.
The gangsters are Irish Catholic in name and culture (the Sullivans say grace before meals), but it's disconcerting to see the worst of them attending mass looking devout. The main gangster, played by Paul Newman, goes to Communion in one scene, but in a subsequent chat with the Sullivan character says that one thing is sure, none of them will see Heaven. Sullivan, also a killer, seems to agree, but thinks that his son has a chance to avoid that particular road to perdition. Neither gangster seems interested in changing his situation, no sign of redemption, or repentance - too much to loose I suppose, rather like Macbeth - "I am in blood stepped in so far that returning were as tedious as go 'oer". This scene might be worth using in senior classes, it's about two thirds way into the film.
Like a lot of the "Catholic" gangster films they are supposedly great family men. This is fairly true for Sullivan, but in the pursuit of revenge he does turn down a chance escape to Ireland with his son to start a new life.

Saw some of the Sunday ceremonies of World Youth Day - as usual the music was of a very high standard, during the final mass - that Kyrie would certainly lift the spirit. At this stage I'm wondering how to incorporate the WYD experience into my R.E. teaching. I'll certainly use the Stations of the Cross from Friday when I look at religious themes in drama in my Transition Year classes, and at the various depictions of Jesus in film. Doing Eucharist I might show the Last Supper sequence at the start of the Stations (very Leonardo!) and some clips from the final mass. Juday Bailey's set from the Saturday night vigil (see below) will be useful for when I'm doing religious themes in music. It's lively and exhuberant and should go down well. The students often argue that music in church should be more joyful!

Yesterday's Vigil at World Youth Day got off to a great start with a warm up set from Judy Bailey and her band. Judy is a gospel/reggae singer with an African-Caribbean groove! She also played WYD 2005 at Cologne. Her set from the vigil in Sydney can be seen at the official WYD website - it's the video segment "Prelude to the Evening Vigil" and is well worth a look. The rest of the Vigil also featured some excellent choral and orchestral music. The music of Taizé figured strongly.

Today's main event at World Youth Day was the Stations of the Cross - a dramatic re-enactment on the streets of Sydney. (Video clip on left gives a flavour). I can see myself using this in school in the coming year - at least one new resource of substance! It lasted about three hours but highlights will be shown on RTE 1 on Sunday (20th July) at 10.30 am, and there are also highlights at the official WYD website.
As for the Stations, it was a most striking presentation - the actors playing Jesus and the apostles were in the usual outfits we expect, but to see them walking through the highways of Sydney made the story entirely contemporary. Each station took place at key locations in Sydney (Opera House, Art Gallery, etc). At one stage Jesus, carrying the cross, was carried by barge across Sydney Harbour, a most unusual setting for the stations.
The main actors did an excellent job - there weren't speaking roles but the physical gestures and facial expressions were spot on, especially as the sufferings of Jesus increased (the sufferings were portrayed quite realistically). The actress who played Mary was particularly good, reminding me of Olivia Hussey from Jesus of Nazareth.
Though it was a vast canvas there was also a sense of intimate theatre in the close-ups. Throughout there was beautiful music accompanying the presentation - I was particularly struck by the windswept choir in black.

Today I started watching some of the coverage of World Youth Day from Sydney. The main events are streamed live at EWTN and RTE's Live service. The music was excellent as Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Sydney Harbour, with its distinctive Opera House as a backdrop. I particularly liked the youth choir's rendition of Servant Song by Richard Gillard. As the Pope's "boat-a-cade" made it's way along the harbour there seemed to be plenty of live music, including rock and light orchestral but unfortunately the cameras didn't let us see where it was coming from or who was performing - the focus was on the Pope himself chatting informally with the young guests on the boat. In his address I was glad to hear him praise "the creativity reflected in the arts". I'm sure we'll see more examples of this creativity over the next few days.

I'm ashamed to say it but when I visited the National Gallery in Dublin a few days ago it was to eat! There's a good restaurant - I especially enjoy the smaller one upstairs. Hadn't got much time - just enough for a quick look around the new exhibition, Revelation, running until 28 Sept. I might return for a more in-depth look. This features 29 contemporary prints on the revelation theme. Not surprisingly the introduction makes it clear that in this case it's not just revelation from God that's in question. However there are quite a few religious works, and a few stick in my mind - there were at least two very different treatments of St Paul's Road to Damascus conversion, a few colourful works in Eastern Icon style, including one on the birth of Christ, a rather peculiar "Crucifixion menu" (a crucifixion scene superimposed on a mirror image menu - have to think more about that - a statement about a la carte Christians?), some works featuring the monastic site at Glendalough, some Christ figures, a striking flower picture "Annunciation Lillies", and a reflection on the Light of the World - a stained glass window design embossed on what seem to be white card. There was a humorous Garden of Eden cartoon with a rather well endowed Eve, and just a hint of a lesbian relationship in one of the prominent works. More info here.

Nicholas Cage was in missionary territory in Lord of War, last Thursday night's film on RTE 2. But instead of a gospel of love he brought death to the people of the third world. Cage played a freelance arms dealer who liked the work, not just because it made him rich but because he was "good at it". This arrogance led to the death of his brother, alienation from his family, separation from his wife and child, and he still kept at it.
His religious upbringing was curious - his mother was Catholic, but his father pretended, with great enthusiasm, to be Jewish - in fact it was at synagogue that the Cage character, Yuri, met his first important arms dealing contact. He was painfully adept at rationalising, accepting no responsibility whatever for the destruction caused by his weapons. He sold to murderous dictators in West Africa but hid behind the weakest of platitudes - it's not our business what they do with the weapons, someone else will do it if I don't etc The film was marred by grauitous sex, drug abuse and the foulest of language, a pity coming from writer director Andrew Niccol who had scripted the subtle Truman Show, but in other ways it was moral, even to the point of being preachy. There was little doubt that the film showed the arms trade as hugely cynical and destructive. An Interpol agent of impeccable integrity (well played by Ethan Hawke) tried to nail Yuri but was thwarted by the shady military connections his adversary had made in high places.
It was here that the film became most preachy - hammering home the point that however repulsive the arms dealers were, the super power governments of the world were worse. And I was uneasy about the way the Yuri character was portrayed - cool, charismatic, successful on a material level, perhaps an attractive role model for some young or immature viewers? Just a little close to those films that purport to be anti-war and yet seem to revel in violence.

Doing some catching up here. TV series Lost came to the end of its fourth series on RTE recently. Hadn't time to write it up at the time, but a few days ago I got to have another look at the last few episodes - all in one sitting! More intense than watching many feature films.
Not much in the line of religious themes of late, though there was a funny scene when Hurley came into his house that seemed abandoned, suspected an intruder and took up a statue of Jesus for self defence. He walked into a surprise party brandishing the statue whereupon his mother admonished him: "Jesus Christ is not a weapon"! (see clip over). Food for thought there! I was reminded of how statues of Our Lady were used earlier in the series as hiding places for drugs, rather dodgy on the respect front.

In another episode recently Hurley, in a flash forward to when he's off the island, muses on the nature of life now (see clip over), wondering if they're already in the next life - We're dead he declares about the six that got off the island, and says that Jack's life is "just like heaven", though Hurley himself is in a mental institution. As Jack falls apart pretty soon, the heaven theory doesn't hold much water! The flashforward technique continues to work well, but must make it entirely confusing for those who don't watch regularly. With some exceptions the flashforwards have been in reverse chronological order, getting closer and closer to the present time.
The most moving of these scenes was the arrival home of the "Oceanic Six", those who got off the island (see clip over) - there were emotional reunions, and different kinds of emotions for Kate as she had no one to welcome her home. But we had to wait for the final double episode to see how they actually escaped. Jack's funeral oration for his father also packed an emotional punch. The show's moral compass is shaky at the best of times. Along with the heroism, friendships, loyalty, self-sacrifice and love, there's been adultery, revenge, murder, kidnapping, deception, manipulation and perjury - a bit like Shakespeare, or real life, I suppose, but sometimes the sins are not recognised as such.

While I'm at it I'd better say something about 7th Heaven - this US drama series about Rev Eric Camden and his large extended family lasted 11 series which is a pretty impressive achievement. They should have left it at 10! The 10th series ended on a high note, as if the series was ending (see clip over), but apparently a different company picked it up for another season, and while it always teetered on the borderline of wit and corn, the corn got the upper hand this season. Even that final episode had its cringe moments - the whole family, friends, dogs the lot, decide to head off on a road trip in the new RV (camper van). And there's so much silly fuss about the three items each person can bring - one brings a Bible, one brings the Da Vinci Code (the minister doesn't bat an eye), one brings Valley of the Dolls (the minister does bat an eye). There wasn't a lot here that could be of use in R.E. class, but there was a mysterious character (Stanley) who could be God, or an angel. He has been enigmatic during Series 11, and appears in the final scene when Eric says to him words to the effect that he may not be what he seems to be. The last eight minutes of the show, including this scene, are I this clip: