On a Merry-Go-Round of Sacred and Profane

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As expected, last week's program titled "Let Me Confess..." about the three churches I went rather spontaneously to on Sunday afternoon generated more responses than usual. One listener wrote: "Edward, you should do this sort of urban landscape confessional thing more often." And indeed, I'm planning to do just that. In response to my asking for your favorite house of worship here in Los Angeles and beyond - one you like for its art, architecture, and interior design - I received some very interesting suggestions and do hope to get even more, along with photographs you've taken. So in the weeks and months to come, I'll continue to travel around our City of Angels, following up on your suggestions, and then we can all participate in choosing LA's three most visually appealing houses of worship.

at100427c.jpgOne listener sent me a book titled Jewels in Our Crown, filled with photographs of the churches of Los Angeles. Thumbing through its pages, I recognized some of churches; a few years ago, the Skirball Cultural Center had a photographic exhibition of LA's historic religious buildings, with an accompanying book appropriately titled Sacred Spaces. One wonders if anyone has thought about organizing special tours of our city's most intriguing houses of worship – I bet a lot of people would be interested.

at100427a.jpgIn the last couple of years I've talked about several imaginative contemporary art exhibitions in various churches, including Anselm Kiefer's installation "Palmsonntag" at the First Baptist Church in Koreatown, and "Walking the Way of the Cross," a surprisingly edgy exhibition at the Church of Our Saviour in San Gabriel, near Pasadena, by artist and Episcopal priest Thomas Faulkner, the head chaplain of the temporary morgue at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

at100427b.jpgHere in Santa Monica, I discovered the First Presbyterian Church, with its series of classical music concerts. As it happens, this coming Wednesday May 5, there will be a performance by three musicians – winners of the annual 'Princess Christina Concours,' a competition for young musicians in the Netherlands.

at100427d.jpgNow I feel its time to balance all the above - with its emphasis on the sacred - with a good dollop of the profane, delivered by its high priest, Federico Fellini, almost fifty years ago, in his cinematic masterpiece 8 ½. If you haven't seen it on the big screen, as it's meant to be experienced, here's your chance to get drunk and happy on its gorgeous black and white cinematography and its over-the-top story about a movie director going through the worst crisis of his personal and professional life.

at100427e.jpgFellini and his alter ego, Marcello Mastroianni, work their magic, making merciless fun of everything that is sacred to the average Italian and to us all - God, church, marriage, family - only to end up with a deeply moving and unforgettable portrayal of human imperfection in all its endless permutations. I've seen this movie a few times, but like a good wine, it just keeps getting better with age. Watching it again last night at Laemmle's Music Hall, I thought of it as an unforgettable exhibition of thousands of striking images, each worthy of a good, long look.


8 ½ plays at Laemmle's Music Hall 3 through Thursday, April 28

Banner image: Marcello Mastroianni in Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2; Copyright © 1963 Embassy Pictures Corporation