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Apparition of the Eternal Church 2006
Description: The film captures the responses of 31 authors, musicians, filmmakers and dancers to Olivier Messiaen's monumental organ work "Apparition of the Eternal Church." Listening to the 10-minute piece through headphones, the documentary subjects-most of whom are outsiders to the church and do not know what they're hearing-put Messiaen's project to the test: Is it possible to portray, through time-bound, invisible sound, the spiritual, the architectural, the eternal? The effect is a collective interpretation improvising its method through an aesthetic landscape defined by violent contradictions. Resolution abuts eternity, eroticism asceticism, spiritual ecstasy physical torture. Together, the melody and its interpreters conjure something like what William Blake famously named the marriage of heaven and hell.
Released: 28 Jan 2006 Director: Paul Festa Writers: N/A Actors: Nancy Kathryn Anderson, Dan Becker, Alexandra Beller, Squeaky Blonde Genres: Documentary
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Apparition of the Eternal Church Reviews:

Trying to describe unfamiliar melody is an automatic exercise in futility. Melody is its own language. It gotta be heard to be understood.And when the melody in question is Olivier Messiaen's "Apparition of the Eternal Church" (Apparition de l'Église éternelle), a ten-minute solo organ piece written in 1930 by this enigmatic and special French composer -- well, forget it. Descriptions are not merely futile; they're downright impossible.Well, not really. Filmmaker, musician, and writer Paul Festa has done the seemingly impossible in this brilliantly conceived and executed documentary about this one piece of music. And then some. Festa goes beyond the melody to discover it's impact on a couple of dozen folks who hear what is, essentially, the language of a strange and bold fresh world.Festa includes, among these subjects, everyone from musicians and scholars like Albert Fuller (a renowned harpsichord and organ virtuoso who taught at Julliard), Harold Bloom ("The Western Canon," "How to Read and Why"), and Richard Felciano (who studied under Messiaen) to non-musicians hearing the piece for the first time, including filmmaker John Cameron Mitchell ("Hedwig and the Mad Inch" and "Shortbus"), Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket), and Rabbi Angela Buchdahl.And what do these topics do? It's easy enough on the surface. Festa puts headphones on them, and they listen to the Apparition of the Eternal Church. Their only instruction is to react spontaneously. To describe what they're feeling, what they're seeing, and how the melody is affecting them.This is where the movie becomes simply amazing, as strong in its own method as the melody it's exploring. As one who first heard this piece of melody two decades ago, I've since listened to it at least a hundred times. Many of the film's topics described the piece in the ecstatic, joyous terms that I might have used. Others, though, had radically various experiences.Somehow in the process, Paul Festa has managed to capture the essence of these experiences (none of which are tame), and to distill them for us in a captivating and insightful look into the language of a fresh and shocking globe of emotion, passion, and vision.If at all possible, see this film! You'll never listen to melody the same method again.


This movie starts mysteriously, first with a girl with flaming antlers on her head, then moving to head-shots of individuals with headphones on, listening to something that is obviously very affecting to many of them. Whatever they are hearing appears to be loved by some and hated by others, but obviously offers every an intense experience. The viewer doesn't know what they are listening to until later, which creates a tension and then a true appreciation of the melody when it is finally revealed. I acquired a fresh way of listening to melody by watching this film. I've watched it a number of times, and enjoyed it each time. The director has a number of eccentric mates (I presume they are friends) who appear as his subjects, some of whom seem to be on the verge of having a religious experience through the audio. Paul Festa's recent short, "Glitter Emergency" is fully different, but equally as wonderful, and I'd suggest it to anyone who can search it.



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