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As the title suggests, this dramatised documentary about the eccentric Canadian pianist Glenn Gould is broken up into thirty-two short films (mirroring the thirty-two part structure of Bach's 'Goldberg Variations', the recording that Gould made famous), each giving us an insight into some aspect of Gould's life and career. Out of respect for the music lead actor Colm Feore is never seen playing the piano, merely reacting to Gould's own recordings, which are extensively featured Written by
Michael Brooke <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The structure of the film is based on the structure of the piece that Glenn Gould is most famous for playing, Johann Sebastian Bach's "Goldberg Variations", which are 32 short pieces of music that are usually played together. See more »
My mother tells me that by five years old I had decided definitively to become a concert pianist. I think she had decided some time earlier. The story goes that while I was in the womb she played the piano continuously to give me a head start, and evidently it paid off. My mother was my first teacher, and I've never doubted her methods. After all, she introduced me to Bach.
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A journal of feelings/ideas about Gould, not a sluggish attempt at typical narrative recreation.
Girard succeeds where many have failed- he creates an intimate portrait of an artist without falling subject to the cumbersome confines of the narrative 'birth to death' storyline format. What better way to breathe life into a musician's 'story' than rhythmically assembling a collection of several recreated happenings, bits of documentary conversation, and performances of actual musical pieces (orchestrated works of Gould's) that each examine a particular instance from Glen Gould's life?
By avoiding a typical diluted overview of the artist's entire timeline of events, Girard instead picks out specific happenings in Gould's life that each tells a story of a complex, confused, and brilliant man. These shorts are shown in a somewhat chronological order, so as not to completely ignore the fact that the collection of shorts aims to sculpt a more complete picture of Gould. Their consecutive placement being rhythmically conscious, the viewer is never lost in the experimental efforts or the non-narrative spectrum of the shorts, as they are closely followed by the more tangible aspects of Gould's life. Aesthetic elements from Gould's creative life are often carried over from one short to the next, which helps reinforce the unity as a whole of the 32 separate films.
One of the most important aspects this structure brings to its audience is freeing them from the typical passive role. Instead of loosing yourself into a 2 hour story that tries its hardest to make it's viewer forget their lives, troubles, and identities by sweeping them into a fantasy world, the constant breathes between these short episodes remind the audience what they're seeing more resembles a diary from the artist rather than an alternate reality to 'forget oneself' in.
Aside from the highly effective (and I believe far more suitable) structural effort of the film, the camera's language combined with the film's language is very conventional (aside from the sound editing in several cases). At times, the extremely literal usage of visual imagery falls a little flat, but it also works within its context in particular cases. Other innovations in the film stem from the content chosen (or even more so, what the filmmaker chooses not to show in several of the shorts). An excellent film for those who are humbled at the overwhelming confusion even the brilliant can carry.
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