GENIUS WITHIN: THE INNER LIFE OF GLENN GOULD
Toronto-born musician Glenn Gould died from a series of strokes shortly after his 50th birthday in 1982. He had become something of a legend, an eccentric and a man of mystery. Above all, he was one of the greatest pianists of all time, celebrated, adored - and very private. He made his debut in New York at age 22 playing the Goldberg Variations - an audacious choice, but one that catapulted him to instant fame. His genius and his reclusive persona are explored through archival footage and the anecdotes of friends, partners and acquaintances.
Review by Louise Keller:
Having been an avid Glenn Gould fan for years, I was enthralled and fascinated to be submerged in his music and life in this riveting documentary about the man, pianist, composer and musical interpreter. A solitary, obsessive, musical genius whose distinctive counterpoint interpretations of Bach and other composers allow the left hand to sound as though it is playing a duet with the right is unique - like the man himself. Directors Michèle Hozer and Peter Raymont have managed to put their fingers on the quicksand of intangibility that Gould represents. Just as we think we understand this unique, eccentric, highly intelligent, charming, funny and ferociously private man blessed (or cursed) with a king size talent, we realise that much of what we know is but a mirage. This is a wonderful film that leaves us with a bittersweet melancholy as well as a hunger to hear more of his marvelous music.
From the outset, we realise that it is not just Gould's extraordinary musical talent that makes him unique. It is the whole package that makes this man with quirks and foibles and who in the words of one of his girlfriends was 'not an easy person', an artist in the true sense. Born in Canada, this wunderkind began reading words and music from the age of 3 and 4, performed his first recital at the age of 14 and at the age of 25 toured and recorded in the Soviet Union, in controversial political times. We learn all this through interviews with friends, lovers, colleagues and musicians as well as in the words of Gould himself in voice over and black and white film. It is impressive how much footage there is, allowing us to feel as though we are both a fly on the wall and a sympathiser of this man who struggled to find serenity away from his music.
There are many details that captivate me - such as the way he was taught to separate each note as he played the piano and the adulterous relationship that developed between Gould and Cornelia, wife of acclaimed pianist Lukas Foss. The reflections from Cornelia's (now grown up) daughter deliver the film's most moving moments. As time passes, we watch as Gould's virtuosity turns to thoughtfulness, when the challenges of touring and performing have been discarded and his eccentricities magnified. Above all, we are absorbed in the magic of his music, with its timeless elegance and distinctive sound that resembles liquid steps that lead us upwards into an ethereal world of beauty.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The first time I heard Glenn Gould play, I was interviewing American actor Peter Coyote on a small river barge that was his quarters during the filming of the Australian film, That Eye the Sky (dir John Ruane, 1994), off a track from Wentworth, near Mildura in country NSW. The music playing was impossible to ignore or push into the background. I asked what it was. It was a Glenn Gould recording, said Coyote, although I can't now recall which one. I have been a fan ever since, and often listen to his extraordinary recordings, especially of Bach. So it is with keen interest that I approach this relatively new doco about him, as will all his many fans.
The story of his life is told through the story of his music, and that it's a melancholy one is entirely apt. Although he has brought enormous joy to millions, his life became more and more melancholy until it crossed the line into drama. He began tinkling, as he put it, at age 3. It wasn't until he was 9 or 10 that he really started to play piano. His talent just poured out, a unique, powerful yet deeply sensitive talent for piano that amazed the world.
This portrait is intimate, though, prying into his personality and his character, his strange aloofness coupled with bursts of intimacy. We learn how and why he carried around a special piano seat for himself, the seat just 18 inches off the ground. We learn about his hypochondria, his fanatical attention to detail, his imposing control over everything - especially the recordings of his works.
Yet no-one speaks ill of him; even those who couldn't live with him make a point of explaining how decent he was. The richness of this profile will satisfy even the most ardent fan, constantly surrounded by Gould's playing in the background - as well as often in the foreground. Immersive in the best way, Genius Within is riveting from start to finish.
Published first in the Sun-Herald
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GENIUS WITHIN: THE INNER LIFE OF GLENN GOULD (PG)
CAST: Documentary featuring Glenn Gould
PRODUCER: Michele Hozer, Peter Raymont
DIRECTOR: Michele Hozer, Peter Raymont
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Walter Corbett
EDITOR: Michele Hozer
RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Antidote Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Hobart, Melbourne: October 7, 2010 (State, Nova); Brisbane: October 21, 2010; Sydney: October 28, 2010 (Chauvel Cinema); Avoca Beach: October 28, 2010