DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: 32 SHORT FILMS ABOUT GLENN GOULD

Saturday 10 March 2007


32 Short Films About Glenn Gould (1993) dir. Francois Girard
Starring: Colm Feore


Review by Blair Stewart

32 Reasons to Watch This Film:

1.The opening shot, which is the most appropriate visual expression of the Canadian psyche that I've seen and in my opinion, on equal standing with John Wayne's arrival/departure in John Ford's 'The Searchers'. I know that's pretentious crap but to watch it makes me a 7 year old kid riding across Alberta's prairies on a cold, clear, sad winter’s day in the back of a station wagon with blue mittens and a Boxer named Max. In fact, here you go-

2.Colm Feore's performance as Glenn Gould, a pianist with great music running through his blood who shot to fame in the 1950's and wilted into the seclusion of mental instability, which doesn't settle for imitation but gets right under the skin of an unconventional genius and "enfant terrible". The fact that Feore has to pay the bills acting in 'Paycheck' and playing second-fiddle to the Zellweggers of the world in 'Chicago' makes me want to smoke crack in indignation.

3.The brilliant idea to not play a straight biopic method like "Ray" or "Walk the Line" of exploring a music icon as a straightforward narrative with predictable results, but to break up his identity into small individual moments throughout his life and work and his life's work. We see reenactments of his successes, interviews with his friends and collaborators and animation sequences from contemporaries like Norman McLaren that compliment the story,
we're taking a stroll through his memory.

4. Its concept and construction likely inspired the film adaptation of "American Splendor" which is a swell movie too.

5. I'm not a classical music aficionado, but the 32 Goldberg Variations of J.S. Bach by Gould is an amazing interpretation.

6. The editing by Gaetan Huot in the 'Pills' section is an excellent precursor to Aronofosky's "Requiem for a Dream" memorable drug quaffing sequences. If a smart DJ were to sample the narration in this scene with a sweet backbeat and Ghostface Killah spitting lyrics, I'm buying the album.

7. The wooden acting of some of the secondary characters is comforting in the sense that it harkens back to countless years spent watching awful CBC productions. If you were living, bland and Canadian between the period of the invention of TV and the present day, you would have had a decent-paid speaking part on “The Beachcomers” no doubt. Bruno Gerussi, take a bow!

8. Glenn getting so wrapped up in his music that he becomes overwhelmed and loses his perception of his surroundings, which is a beautiful sight to see if you dig artists.

9. Director Francois Girard is superbly talented across all visual and auditory fields in this film and is finally coming out of an eight year hiatus at Cannes this year with “Silk” starring Michael Pitt and Keira Knightly.

10. My English buddy Sam pointed out that Keira Knightly never closes her mouth throughout many of her films, which is off-topic but a hilarious observation. I digress.

11. You could watch the entire film on youtube.com at work right now, but the viewing would be sporadic and compromised. Just a thought. Buy the DVD instead if it's a good transfer.

12. Glenn Gould has the same speaking cadence as HAL 9000 ("2001: A Space Odyssey"). Eerie, both were flawed superb machines.

13. This film's intelligence and dignity will help you wash off the post-coital shame you feel after watching "300" . Awesome graphic novel and all, but, come on.

14."SPARTANS, TONIGHT....WE DINE IN HELL!!!" Sorry, couldn't resist.

15. The rude, bitchy performance by the magazine reporter who dives a little too deep into Gould's privacy when she doesn't get what she wants.

16. This quote about him from the conductor George Szell whom he performed with: "No doubt about it-that nut's a genius."


18. He hummed loudly when he was playing despite himself and can be heard in the background on many of his recordings.

19. The Simpsons episode "32 Short Films About Springfield" was partial inspired by this and "Pulp Fiction", kind of like a car-crash at the three intersections of great pop culture.

20. At no point in this film does Glenn Gould ‘triumph over adversity’ like in lesser films. He was a prodigy from an early age who along with his gift had obsessive compulsive disorder, extreme hypochondria and maybe a mild form of autism. Just about anything he worked towards was with passion, ingenuity (see the "Idea of North" for proof) and single-minded focus. From this film I took away any great message other than occasionally someone is born to do a task that they were born to do - a quiet, graceful film for a quiet, graceful man.

21. The Movie Tagline on the poster: The Sound of Genius. Who came up with that?

22. Canada's dawning age as a culture in the 1950's and 60's is evoked finely by Alain Dostie's camera work, which captures the good angles of Toronto.

23. Since its 9 numbers higher than "The Number 23" it must be 9 times better. Just a hunch.

24. The fact that you've gotten this far in the review. Congrats.

25. He's Hannibal Lector's favorite musician. A fictional character yes, but cool regardless.

26. The film was nominated or won at the Toronto, Sao Paolo, and Prix Italia Film festivals plus the Genies and Independent Spirit Awards.

27. Don McKellar's script is the best work he's done, no offense to "Last Night" intended. Smart, funny at times, honest and observant. He's collaborating Fernando Meirelles of "City of God" acclaim right now, good on em'.

28. Music critics still get all pissy about his flights of fancy and eccentricities while performing, despite the fact that he's been dead since 1982.

29. Gould very well may have taken more medication then all of Motley Crüe.

30. The "leaving" sequence with Bach's "Sarabande from French Suite No.1" playing in the background.

31. The film that resulted from his legacy is worthy of the work that he produced.

32. The last shot is better then the first.

Buy it here: 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould

1 comment :

Unknown said...

Great piece Blair!