In the lead up to the 7th Canadian Film Festival in Australia (August 2012), join us as we countdown the Top 100 Canadian Films of the past 30 years. We'll be posting one film a day leading up to Canada Day on July 1st 2012. Do you agree with our team favourites? Let us know your thoughts!
#33 - Thirty Two Short Films about Glenn Gould
Biopics often follow similar arcs, hitting each requisite milestone in their subject’s life in a manner so common as to feel like formula: mostly linear, perhaps peppered with flashbacks. Faced with making a film about the enigmatic pianist Glenn Gould, Francois Girard opted for an innovative non-linear, multi-faceted approach which mirrors the complexity of its subject.
The structure of the film is based on the that 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.
Glenn Gould was a musical prodigy as eccentric as he was gifted. Some have described him as the Michael Jackson of classical music, but rebel icons such as James Dean or Jeff Buckley also come to mind.
Taught only by his mother until he was 10, he quickly morphed into a virtuoso concert pianist of international renown. In 1964, he gave his last concert and refused to perform in public ever again. This marked the start of a remarkable new career, in which he made acclaimed studio recordings which have become benchmarks of classical music (some were even sent out to the far reaches of space on the Voyager probes).
Some vignettes are narrative snapshots of Gould’s life, masterfully played by Colm Feore, others are experimental variations inspired by his music, other still are short documentaries or interviews with those who knew him best.
This impressionistic portrait refuses the ambition of the biopic - to be a definitive account - and thus avoids its pitfalls. It provides a fragmented but comprehensively satisfying idea of who Glenn Gould might have been, and a useful primer to the music that so fascinated him. Like the Goldberg Variations, the film finds harmony in opposing forces and thus captures the elusive mystery of the artistic process.
- Matt Ravier
“As Gould, Colm Feore cuts a remote but mesmerising figure. It's a glorious performance, the centerpiece to a movie as brilliant and multifarious as its subject.” – San Francisco Chronicle
To see the other films in the countdown so far, click here.