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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Apparition press - Globe and Mail



My film Apparition of the Eternal Church is having its British Columbia premiere in the coming week - Sunday, August 2 and Sunday, August 9, at the Vancity Theatre, Vancouver International Film Centre. Today's
Globe and Mail - Canada's largest paper - has this write-up by Fiona Morrow. Excerpts:
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.

...

The positive audience and critical reaction – from screenings in America and Europe, in cathedrals, concert halls and cinemas – has, he says, been overwhelming. “The reason the film is fun is, I think, the same reason that people thought it was fun to take part,” he says. “And that is because, for most of us, musical response is such an interior, hidden experience. We sit in a concert hall and we are expected to be quiet. We have to save up our emotions to the end, and the only way to express this incredibly varied experience we've had over 30 minutes or an hour, or four hours, is to shout. It's not very articulate.

“But when people can express what they are feeling as they are feeling it, it's so much more satisfying and illuminating.”

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

e.e. cummings on art, Spring, and your 401k



My head is spinning from all the cummings I've been reading this summer - mostly from i: six nonlectures (author photo pictured above), which in addition to its autobiographical essays collects not just his own poems but those of keats, wordsworth, shakespeare, donne, shelley, dante, rilke, chaucer, et al. My memory isn't even the cracked colander it was in my youth but I managed to commit this quatrain to memory in Cazadero:

(While you and i have lips and voices which
are for kissing and to sing with
who cares if some oneeyed son of a bitch
invents an instrument to measure Spring with?

Nevermind that I started picking up some disquieting right-wing strains in the philosophy, not to mention the anti-Science streak evidenced above that gets under my skin like cayenne - there's so much here I couldn't wait to share with specific friends (A.M.D., this means you, and B.R.O. of course) and with the blog - before I give this book back to Juliette, from whom I've borrowed it about twenty years before discovering it on my bookshelf before the Cazadero weekend, here they are:

So far as I am concerned, poetry and every other art was and is and forever will be strictly and distinctly a question of individuality. If poetry were anything - like dropping an atombomb - which anyone did, anyone could become a poet merely by doing the necessary anything; whatever that anything might or might not entail. But (as it happens) poetry is being, not doing. If you wish to follow, even at a distance, the poet's calling (and here, as always, I speak from my own totally biased and entirely personal point of view) you've got to come out of the measurable doing universe into the immeasurable house of being. I am quite aware that, wherever our socalled civilization has slithered, there's every reward and no punishment for unbeing. But if poetry is your goal, you've got to forget all about punishments and all about rewards and all about selfstyled obligations and duties and responsibilities etcetera ad infinitum and remember one thing only: that it's you - nobody else - who determine your destiny and decide your fate. Nobody else can be alive for you; nor can you be alive for anybody else. Toms can be Dicks and Dicks can be Harrys, but none of them can ever be you. There's the artist's responsibility; and the most awful responsibility on earth. If you can take it, take it - and be. If you can't, cheer up and go about other people's business; and do (or undo) till you drop. 

***

As it was my miraculous fortune to have a true father and a true mother, and a home which the truth of their love made joyous, so - in reaching outward from this love and this joy - I was marvellously lucky to touch and seize a rising and striving world; a reckless world, filled with the curiosity of life herself; a vivid and violent world welcoming every challenge; a world worth hating and adoring and fighting and forgiving: in brief, a world which was a world. This inwardly immortal world of my adolescence recoils to its very roots whenever, nowadays, I see people who've been endowed with legs crawling on their chins after quote security unquote. "Security?" I marvel to myself "what is that? Something negative, undead, suspicious and suspecting; an avarice and an avoidance; a self-surrendering meanness of withdrawal; a numerable complacency and an innumerable cowardice. Who would be 'secure'? Every and any slave. No free spirit ever dreamed of 'security' - or, if he did, he laughed; and lived to shame his dream. No whole sinless sinful sleeping waking breathing human creature ever was (or could be) bought by, and sold for, 'security.' How monstrous and how feeble seems some unworld which would rather have its too than eat its cake!"

And this, with relevance to the last post (and which, loving criticism, I can't wholly believe) from Rilke:

Works of art are of an infinite loneliness and with nothing to be so little reached as with criticism. Only love can grasp and hold and fairly judge them.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Finish him!


Episode 4 of the BBC's
I, Claudius miniseries shows Livia making an appearance backstage at the Coliseum to give the gladiators a little pep talk. She paid good money for these games and she expects a real fight, no more faking it with pig bladders filled with blood, etc. Then, in the royal box, just as Claudius faints at the sight of Livia getting what she paid for, we hear her cry out to one of the gladiators, "Finish him!"

I had two Livia moments this week, one courtesy of Frank Rich and the other from Anthony Lane. Rich's column in the Times, shredding Sonia Sotomayor's Republicans critics, can't really be excerpted, because like most of his stuff it derives its effect from the piling on of example after example of right-wing idiocy. By the end, you find it hard to believe there are even 40 Republicans in the Senate, or that these will last more than another election cycle or two - but then you remember Karl Rove crowing about the permanent Republican majority he was creating and you are inspired to reflect on the perils of overconfidence.

Anthony Lane's evisceration of Brüno in the July 20th New Yorker ("Mein Camp") is similarly difficult to quote, and just as devastating. The closing graf could stand alone:
“Brüno” ends appallingly, with a musical montage of Sting, Bono, Elton John, and other well-meaners assisting mein Host in a sing-along. Here’s the deal, apparently: if celebrities aren’t famous enough for your liking (Ron Paul, Paula Abdul), or seem insufficiently schooled in irony, you make vicious sport of them, but if they’re A-listers, insanely keen to be in on the joke, they can join your congregation. Would Baron Cohen dare to adopt a fresh disguise and trap Sting in some outlandish folly, or is he now too close a friend? To scour the world for little people you can taunt, and then pal up with the hip and rich: that is not an advisable path for any comic to pursue, let alone one as sharp and mercurial as Baron Cohen. All his genius, at present, is going into publicity, and, in the buildup to this film’s release, he has not put a foot wrong—or, in the case of Eminem, a buttock. But the work itself turns out to be flat and foolish, bereft of Borat’s good cheer: wholly unsuitable for children, yet propelled by a nagging puerility that will appeal only to those in the vortex of puberty, or to adults who have failed to progress beyond it. Call it, at best, a gaudy celebration of free speech, though be advised: before my screening, I had to sign a form requiring me “not to blog, Twitter or Facebook thoughts about the film before 6th July 2009.” A guy pulls down his pants and bares his soul, and we are forbidden to have thoughts? What is this, the Anschluss?
Both these columns put me into fits of schadenfreude, which is by definition mixed with some pity: how can the viruses responsible for these lesions on our culture and politics show their faces after press like this? As someone who intends to make his own share of marks on the world, and hopes they will be reviewed, I search for lessons: never to be that terrible is one, and two, if I am, and I get called on it, to take solace in the knowledge that somebody somewhere is really enjoying my bad reviews.

***CORRECTION***
Fodder for the critics - in one paragraph I got two things wrong: it's Episode 3 of I, Claudius, and it's Livilla - played by Patricia Quinn (Magenta to you Rocky Horror fans) - who cries "Finish him!"

This fact-check brought to you by YouTube, where I verified that Livia's speech to the gladiators is the bitchiest thing that's ever been on TV. Check it out - the whole episode (not to mention series) is worth watching but the speech itself is from 2:56 to 5:04 here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2YgoZQugjU

Monday, July 6, 2009

e.e. cummings on the Internet (1953)


James and I spent the weekend in a bizarre serpentine canyon above Cazadero from which I emerged dazed, James tan and the dog half pink. Many strange and beautiful things seen and experienced, but the thing I was most anxious to post to the blog was this discovery, from the e.e. cummings book I took with me up and down the creek: i: six nonlectures. Since the book was published in 1953, you can imagine my surprise to read these observations about a medium that wasn't invented until 1969 and didn't find its way into the average home for another twenty-five years after that.

You will perhaps pardon me, as a nonlecturer, if I begin my second nonlecture with an almost inconceivable assertion: I was born at home.

For the benefit of those of you who can't imagine what the word "home" implies, or what a home could possibly have been like, I should explain that the idea of home is the idea of privacy. But again--what is privacy? You probably never heard of it. Even supposing that (from time to time) walls exist around you, those walls are no longer walls; they are merest pseudosolidities, perpetually penetrated by the perfectly predatory collective organs of sight and sound. Any apparent somewhere which you may inhabit is always at the mercy of a ruthless and omnivorous everywhere. The notion of a house, as one single definite particular and unique place to come into, from the anywhereish and everywhereish world outside--that notion must strike you as fantastic. You have been brought up to believe that a house, or a universe, or a you, or any other object, is only seemingly solid: really (and you are realists, whom nobody and nothing can deceive) each seeming solidity is a collection of large holes--and, in the case of a house, the larger the holes the better; since the principal function of a modern house is to admit whatever might otherwise remain outside. You haven't the least or feeblest conception of being here, and now, and alone, and yourself. Why (you ask) should anyone want to be here, when (simply by pressing a button) anyone can be in fifty places at once? How could anyone want to be now, when anyone can go whening all over creation at the twist of a knob? What could induce anyone to desire aloneness, when billions of soi-disant dollars are mercifully squandered by a good and great government lest anyone anuywhere should ever for a single instant be alone? As for being yourself--why on earth should you be yourself; when instead of being yourself you can be a hundred, or a thousand, or a hundred thousand thousand, other people? The very thought of being oneself in an epoch or interchangeable selves must appear supremely ridiculous.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Suppervision Pride

With the beautiful and talented Gary Lutes before our June 26th Suppervision performance of the last movement of Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time

Suppervision Pride was my third and final gig this past weekend, and the only one I got any pictures from, which is a shame because I raided my middle-school classmate Eric Glaser's drag closet, and Jupiter rearranged my drag and make-up for my second show Thursday night. Where are the paparazzi when you need them? In any case the first show at Supperclub was a success - I was the first dinner-theater act in history to perform Schnittke, and the dining room went gratifyingly silent for eight minutes. The second was at Tingel Tangel where I played the same music and it was a fiasco. I knew, walking into the jampacked bar, that the Schnittke wouldn't register, but decided to muscle through. It was much worse than I'd thought, thanks to amplification ugliness and a persistent non-drug-related hallucination I had that someone was walking around the stage behind me fucking with the mikes. Oh well! The reason I muscled through was for the boot camp concentration exercise (did I really just write the words camp concentration?), and in that sense it was a success, as I got through the piece, which I'd only committed to memory that week.


backstage at Suppervision with a friendly neighborhood little slut and $50 worth of Kryolan make-up, which I just remembered I still haven't gotten off my chin rest



dance party in the dressing room


I love this picture by Tom Schmidt despite the fact that it doesn't convey the extreme precariousness of the stage. I was on a three and a half foot ledge above a 15-foot drop and was so nervous walking out at the beginning that my knees almost knocked and I let my elbow scrape the wall for support. The keyhole-shaped projection is video of clouds passing over me. Gary played piano on the stage below.


In honor of our impresario I glued this rhinestone "III" to my head for the bow. After performances, there was dancing, and after dancing, there was the after party, and after the after party was the after-after party, and after that I walked home and was in bed by 8 a.m. Saturday morning and managed not to lose my violin or anybody's drag.

About Me

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Paul Festa’s first film, Apparition of the Eternal Church (2006, 51 min), captures the responses of 31 artists to the apocalyptic music of Olivier Messiaen (with Justin Bond, John Cameron Mitchell, Harold Bloom; screenings: Grace Cathedral, Barbican Centre, Library of Congress; “Remarkable”The New Yorker; “Stunning”Chicago Sun-Times; “Sublime”Globe & Mail; numerous awards). Festa performs the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, opposite members of the San Francisco Ballet and The Cockettes, in his award-winning second film, The Glitter Emergency (2010, 20 min), a silent-film drag ballet comedy (“Enormous visual and musical inventiveness…full of pleasure and joy...Festa gives a bravura performance."—Film Threat). He produced, wrote and edited, with director Austin Forbord, and was chief archivist, for the Emmy-nominated documentary Stage Left: A Story of Theater in San Francisco (2010, 80 min: with Robin Williams, Bill Irwin, Peter Coyote; screenings: Geary Theater, KQED; “Intriguing...entertaining...a valuable record”—Variety). Performances as violinist and actor: ODC Theater, Center for Performance Research, Kunst-Stoff, TheatreFIRST, North Bay Shakespeare, Albert Fuller's Helicon Ensemble (Merkin Hall, Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall). US, Boston, NYC, SF, LA and DC (Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress on the “Betts” Stradivarius) premieres of Messiaen’s Fantaisie for violin and piano. He is the author of OH MY GOD: Messiaen in the Ear of the Unbeliever, based on Apparition of the Eternal Church, and several anthologized essays, and has written for The Daily Beast, Salon, Nerve, and The New York Times Book Review. Current projects include a novel and Tie It Into My Hand (2014, ca. 80 min), a documentary feature that has screened as a work in progress at the Cannes film market and at ODC Theater in San Francisco (with Alan Cumming, Gary Graffman, Peter Coyote, Mink Stole, Robert Pinsky; "A fascinating exploration of the artistic life, as rollickingly entertaining as it is insightful and stirring."San Francisco Bay Guardian). Education: Yale (B.A.; prizes, honors, distinction), Juilliard (Cert., Adv. Cert., scholarships). Residencies: Yaddo, MacDowell, ODC Theater, Centre des Récollets.

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