Waiter, There's a Cultural Icon In My Sanctuary

When local filmmaker Paul Festa set out to document thirty-one listeners' reactions to a ten-minute piece of monumental religious organ music by French composer, organist, and self-proclaimed ornithologist Olivier Messiaen, it's probably safe to say that he never expected to have it screened at Grace Cathedral. Nevertheless, there it is: Apparition of the Eternal Church, 52 minutes of footage showing cultural icons including drag phenom Jackie Beat, local comedian Marga Gomez, esteemed literary critic Harold Bloom, and scores of others. They describe what they hear, and respond with everything from spiritual ecstasy to horror when confronted with the titular early 20th-century composition of a devout Roman Catholic. All of this takes place in the sanctuary of the city's most grand Episcopal cathedral, followed by an open-bar reception. The seemingly unlikely venue reflects the filmmaker's intent to erode boundaries on both sides of the cultural-religious divide, exploring the state of conflict between Christian art and non-Christian listeners. The event opens with the San Francisco premiere of a recently discovered work by Messiaen (the 1933 "Fantaisie"), continues with the screening and a short reading, and ends with an open discussion.
Fri., April 18, 7 p.m., 2008

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