Pipedreams, American Public Media
Cathedral Resonances

Michael Barone
Week of August 11, 2013

For adventuresome and broad-minded viewers, I do recommend Paul Festa’s provocative film Apparition of the Eternal Church,” which explores the unexpected responses of a variety of people to a first-time hearing of that mesmerizing 1931 score by Messiaen. It's a fascinating portrait of how people listen to music and what they imagine. (39:10)

Why We Listen: Three Songs and Many Questions
Why We Listen
05 - Paul Festa
Marc Kate
April 9, 2012

His film Apparition of the Eternal Church was one of my primary inspirations to start Why We Listen. It’s a sort of experimental documentary that observes people as they listen to Olivier Messiaen’s organ composition "Apparition of the Eternal Church." It’s a really moving film and I recommend it very, very highly.

The New York Times
MUSIC REVIEW Messiaen Moments, in Swells and Fanfares

November 13, 2011

You needn’t be a pipe organ cabalist or an initiate of the new-music illuminati to be moved, even shaken, by Olivier Messiaen’s music for the instrument he played most of his life. “Apparition of the Eternal Church,” a 2006 film by Paul Festa, makes the point vividly; in it, Mr. Festa claps headphones on writers, performers and quasi celebrities, then captures their reactions of bemusement, perplexity and awe as they listen to Messiaen’s landmark 1932 piece, “Apparition de l’Église Éternelle.”
Music critic Alex Ross's blog Unquiet Thoughts
Messiaen video
October 20, 2009

Two other Messiaen films worth seeing: the DVD of Pierre Audi’s Netherlands Opera production of "St. Francis of Assisi," with a magnificent lead performance by Rod Gilfry; and Paul Festa’s mind-bending documentary "Apparition of the Eternal Church."

The Globe and Mail
Do you see what I hear?
July 30, 2009

"This hour, watching headshots of individuals listening to music we can't hear, is entirely absorbing, moving – sublime, even. From invocations of religious imagery and howls of pain, to ecstasies of both the divine and the sexual, the immediate responses to the music are consistently hilarious, intelligent and primal."
Paul Festa talks about Apparition of the Eternal Church, the Messiaen film to screen at Oberlin May 5 (pdf)
April 27, 2009

"One of Festa’s brilliant editing touches is depriving the viewer from hearing the music until the very end of the film, when Messiaen’s Apparition de l’Eglise Éternelle, played by Olivier Latry, forms the soundtrack to a rather chilling collection of text slides, followed by the credits. The piece seems to have been transformed by the comments that have gone before, and we may never hear it quite the same way again."

The New Yorker
The Century Club: Celebrations of Carter and Messiaen
January 5, 2009

"Not everyone can put up with Messiaen’s Catholic ecstasies, but his canonical status seems assured, and his devotees are numerous and zealous. Paul Festa, who has made a remarkable film, “Apparition of the Eternal Church,” about the experience of listening to Messiaen, suggests that the composer has become the focus of a new kind of nondenominational religious feeling, distinct from Catholicism. Messiaen might have been horrified by the notion, but his binding together of sensual and spiritual impulses is a force that acts upon diverse audiences with unpredictable intensity."

The View From Here - Chicago Sun-Times critic Andrew Patner's blog
2008 -- A very good Chicago classical and opera year -- Chicago Sun-Times
December 27, 2008

"A knock-out Messiaen-on-acid documentary."

The Juilliard Journal
Q&A With Paul Festa
December, 2008

"The internationally acclaimed documentary...attempts to answer the question: what does Messiaen’s passionately Christian music sound like to non-Christians? Listeners, who range from the late Juilliard professor Albert Fuller to Broadway stars and drag queens...allude to childhood, architecture, and literature, even as they conjure a distinctly 'Messiaenic' vision of damnation and spiritual ecstasy.."

he Lawrentian (Lawrence University)
"Appartition of the Eternal Church" comes to Lawrence

November 21, 2008

"The elements of religion, emotion, violence and sex in the film bring to light the collision between the human and the divine, the emotional and the spiritual."

This Way Out, Los Angeles (mp3 link)
November 17, 2008

"Violinist Paul Festa had an unusual idea for a movie..."

All of this has happened before (blog)
October 12, 2008

"A fascinating portrait of how people experience music."

Chicago Sun-Times
October 6, 2008

"Stunning...perhaps the finest film ever made on how people experience music, and one of the best-crafted and moving documentaries in a very long time."

98.7WFMT, Chicago (mp3 link)
October 6, 2008

"A remarkable film...highly, highly recommended."

The Chicago Tribune
October 3, 2008

(John von Rhein's Picks)

New Yorker critic Alex Ross's blog The Rest Is Noise
20th-century agenda: Messiaen
October 3, 2008

"Remarkable...intensely personal...nothing can quite prepare you for the experience."

88.5 KCSN Arts and Roots Radio
April 25, 2008

"A wonderful film."

The Bay Area Reporter Online
Week of April 17, 2008


Apparition of The Eternal Church Will Blow Your Mind!

San Francisco Bay Times
Week of April 17, 2008
by Sister Dana Van Iquity

"The suspense will kill you!...I was utterly blown away when I reviewed the DVD."

Waiter, There's a Cultural Icon In My Sanctuary
SF Weekly
April 16-22, 2008
by Evan James

"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..."

Out In The Bay, KALW
April 10th and 13th, 2008
Radio interview with Marilyn Pittman
Out In The Bay archives

Artery, KALW
April 10, 2008
Radio profile by Nathanael Johnson

Music is Religious Experience in Apparition of the Eternal Church
The Village Voice
February 26th, 2008
by Nathan Lee

"May be the best description of the Messiaen effect on record...circles around the mystery of music and subjectivity and touches down on a head-spinning array of topics...a bravura performance, not to be missed."

Turangalîla triumphant
New Yorker music critic Alex Ross's blog "The Rest Is Noise"
Sunday, February 17, 2008

"Two NYC events should be added to the calendar: 1) a screening of Paul Festa's remarkable documentary Apparition of the Eternal Church at St. Bartholomew's Church on Feb. 27, with live performances of L'Ascension, Offrande au Saint-Sacrement, and, of course, the Apparition, along with what appears to be the New York premiere of the Fantaisie for violin and piano..."

Independent spirit: Indie filmmaker Paul Festa answers questions about his 'Apparition of the Eternal Church'
The Mobile Press-Register
Thursday, February 7, 2008
By Thomas B. Harrison
Arts Editor

"Takes the documentary to a new and more intriguing level...wickedly funny...the interview subjects are among the most extraordinary I have ever seen or heard in a documentary. "

(full transcript of the original interview with the Press-Register, posted by the Mobile Arts Council)

Interview with Allen Bell, program director for contemporary arts and new initiatives
Southern Arts Federation
(mp3 audio file)
Tuesday, January 29, 2008

"It's not like any other film I've ever seen - and I've seen a lot of films."

Film explores responses to 'apocalyptic' music
The Greenville News
Sunday, January 27, 2008
By Ann Hicks
Arts Writer
Video extra

"Move over, blues and gospel shouters. Make way for French composer Olivier Messiaen, and let him shake, rattle and roll a movie audience with deafening organ crescendos."

Festa's 'Apparition' to screen Feb. 8
The Mobile Register
Sunday, January 27, 2008
By Thomas B. Harrison
Arts Editor

"Festa, based in San Francisco, has put together 31 colorful interview subjects that likely would chase Ken Burns off the premises."

End-of-summer miscellany
New Yorker music critic Alex Ross's blog "The Rest Is Noise"
September 26, 2007

"I mentioned the widely loved harpsichordist and organist Albert Fuller immediately below; there is now a blog devoted to his unpublished writings and memorials to him. He makes a memorable appearance in Paul Festa's mesmerizing documentary Apparition of the Eternal Church, in which people from various walks of life (including none other than Justin Bond of Kiki & Herb) react to Messiaen's early organ masterpiece."

Cosa pensiamo quando ascoltiamo la musica: la chiesa eterna di Paul Festa

(What we think when we listen to music: Paul Festa's eternal church)
Dispenser (Italy)
June 15, 2007
Alberto Forni

"Un curioso e interessante esperimento, una testimonianza fuori dai canoni sul potere ancestrale a musica ancora in grado di esercitare."
("A curious and interesting experiment, an extraordinary testimonial of the primal power music can still exert.")

Apparition of the Eternal Church
April 17, 2007

"An absorbing and exhilarating film about the power of music."

Messiaen Complex
Metro Santa Cruz
May 3-10, 2006
By Bill Forman

"Apparition of the Eternal Church, which will be Sunday night's feature screening at the Santa Cruz Film Festival, more than lives up to its billing as an experimental documentary. The San Francisco writer/musician/filmmaker's subjects include one woman with flaming antlers, two drag queens, a half-dozen professors and countless actors, musicians and artists--all of whom are individually subjected to a single piece of music, Olivier Messiaen's 1931 Apparition de L'Eglise Eternelle."

Check out praise for Apparition of the Eternal Church.