The film Charity is most excited about, meanwhile, is the Canadian premiere of Apparition of the Eternal Church. "I think it’s a really unusual film," he tells me, "because it’s a film that takes head on the challenge of how we respond to music, and makes that not just its subject, but that’s reflected in its form, which is innovative. This is a documentary about Messiaen ten-minute organ piece of the same name, and for the first half of the film - the first three quarters of the film, even - we don’t hear the music," Charity explains. "We just watch people listening to the music wearing headphones as they describe what the music means to them. And some of them are music experts and musicians, but many of them have never heard this piece, and don’t know anything about it - so it’s a very pure response. And Paul Festa, the director, cuts between their thoughts as they listen. It’s remarkable how this abstract art conjures such strong, passionate feelings - by no means all positive - and in many cases very similar pictures come up in people’s minds," with analogies funereal, sexual, Christian, and apocalyptic being drawn on by the 31 "subjects" of the film, who are often surprisingly funny, as well as perceptive and articulate (John Cameron Mitchell and Harold Bloom are among them, as is some potsmoking guy in bizarre Gothy monster/fetish makeup who goes by the name Squeaky Blonde). I actually liked this first (and longest) segment of the film - simply showing people listening to the music and describing their reactions - quite a bit more than the last section, where Messiaen's piece plays with considerable textual accompaniment (from Nietzsche, Saramago, and Blake), so that the film suddenly stops feeling like an account of the subjective experience of listening and instead a sort of essay on the composition itself. I'd rather have continued hearing people's reactions and then spent ten minutes with a black screen, listening to the piece myself, without being further guided in my interpretations of it. That aside, I quite liked the film, and recommend that anyone interested in how people listen to music attend the screening; it's an unusually compelling experience, watching and hearing people's reactions to this piece of music; it works far better as cinema than I'd anticipated.
Oh: an interesting detail that I couldn't get into the Straight piece: the Vancity Theatre has been granted a liquor license, with the bizarre Catch-22 caveat that patrons are not allowed to bring alcohol with them into the theatre. To reduce the conflict of interest between the desire to drink beer or wine, and the desire to not miss any of the film, the Vancity will be projecting the films off DVD in the lobby as well as in the theatre off film, so you can go out for a drink without missing a beat.
Or a chord.