Friday, September 10, 2010
Michèle Hozer & Peter Raymont's GENIUS WITHIN: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould
TrustMovies came to live in New York City in the fall of 1962 -- in time to miss attending the earlier spring concert by pianist Glenn Gould of Brahms First Piano Concerto, conducted by Leonard Bernstein. Not too long after this singular event -- immediately before which Mr. Bernstein disavowed Gould's interpretation of the concerto, and soon after which the New York Times critic Harold Schonberg lit into both Gould and Bernstein -- the rest of the world became similarly deprived, as the musician, considered by many to be the world's greatest living classical pianist, elected to stop performing live and would henceforth allow his piano-playing to reach its audience only via recording. All this (and a whole lot more) is documented in the new work from Michèle Hozer and Peter Raymont, two filmmakers that have done a superlative job of putting together the story of the late Mr. Gould -- his history, talent/gift, family, friends, lovers, craziness and music -- that should send its viewers right back to the musician's famed recordings.
Todd Haynes' invented and inventive look at Bob Dylan in I'm Not There), but they have given us a wonderfully encompassing view of a man who, in the minds of many, is to classical music (especially Bach) something akin to what Guttenberg was to The Bible. And they have done this in a manner that should entertain and create new converts to Gould (myself, for instance), as well as, I think, those who are already familiar (and in love) with the man's brand of music. They might also send some of us back to François Girard's odd work, 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould, a movie I roundly despised upon first viewing it some 17 years ago. Now that I have learned much more about Gould from this film, I suspect I might better appreciate Girard's work.
Guerrero, who tapped on the fingers of his students to help individuate the digits.
Fran Barrault ("He was romantic," yes, but probably "too difficult to live with"), as well as from later love Cornelia Foss (wife of pianist, composer and friend Lukas Foss), who tells us about the first time she heard Gould's recording of the Goldberg Variations, and how it seemed to her that the pianist had taken apart the piece and put it back together in his own way. For all the time spent on exploring Gould's "love" life, the movie manages to seem less like gossip and more like a legitimate exploration of who this musician fully was. After a time you can begin to understand -- and empathize with -- Gould, not simply for cancelling entire tours, but eventually refusing to give live concerts at all. (The character played by Albert Dupontel in Avenue Montaigne may remind you of the Gould we see here.)
Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman figured into the musician's life, and even Petula Clark, a performer Gould very much admired, makes an entrance here. What comes through most strongly, however, is how forward thinking (and acting) was the musician regarding the technology of recordings. Of the funeral ceremony (Gould had reached only the age of 50) someone remarks, "It was as though the King had died." This documentary will probably leave you feeling very much in tune with that sentiment -- even though the King certainly had his problems.
Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould (106 minutes) opens today, Friday, September 10, at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema and the Quad Cinema. Further playdates around the country -- with cities and theaters -- can be found here (click and then scroll down).