Dig­ging for Gould

Pasatiempo - - Moving Images - James M. Keller The New Mex­i­can

Ge­nius Within: The In­ner Life of Glenn Gould, doc­u­men­tary, The Screen, 2.5 chiles

When the Cana­dian pi­anist Glenn Gould died in 1982, at the age of 50, he was one of the most fa­mous of soli­tary per­sons. He guarded his pri­vacy to the point where one might say he fetishized it. That, of course, made many mu­sic lovers all the more ea­ger to pen­e­trate it, and the fas­ci­na­tion shows no signs of los­ing steam. One of the talk­ing heads in the new film Ge­nius Within: The In­ner Life of Glenn Gould ob­serves that Gould was “an icon in the same vein as James Dean.”

This is far from the first film to take on the Gould leg­end. Cu­ri­ous mu­sic lovers may, for ex­am­ple, turn to Glenn Gould: On & Off the Record, which con­sists of a pair of CBC doc­u­men­taries that he put to­gether him­self in 1959 and that af­ford half-hour glimpses into his pri­vate and pub­lic worlds. Var­i­ous films of Gould per­for­mances are avail­able on DVD, and in 2005 Bruno Mon­sain­geon, a noted mu­sic doc­u­men­tary maker and a long­time friend of the pi­anist’s, re­leased the film Glenn Gould: Au delà du temps (re­leased for English speak­ers as Glenn Gould: Here­after), which lays out the con­tours of Gould’s life and ca­reer with fer­vent ad­mi­ra­tion. The most cre­ative cin­e­matic take on Gould was surely Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, made

by François Gi­rard in 1993, its 32 seg­ments (re­flect­ing the struc­ture of Bach’s Gold­berg Vari­a­tions, a work with which Gould was much as­so­ci­ated) con­vey­ing a frac­tured, cu­bis­tic point of view that re­flects some­thing of its sub­ject’s ec­cen­tric makeup.

Ge­nius Within of­fers a more forth­right nar­ra­tive that lays out his bi­og­ra­phy, from his ori­gins in an un­re­mark­able Toronto neigh­bor­hood through to his early demise due to a stroke and his mourn­ing by a grief-stricken nation. Gould’s early life is rea­son­ably well cap­tured in pho­to­graphs, and the film’s di­rec­tors, who had the sup­port of the Gould Foun­da­tion, make good use of the avail­able im­ages. His ca­reer took off in 1955 when, the day af­ter his New York de­but, he was given a con­tract by Columbia Records. From that moment for­ward, his pub­lic life was doc­u­mented ex­ten­sively. Nonethe­less, the film’s di­rec­tors have cre­ated a num­ber of scenes in which an ac­tor por­trays the pi­anist, usu­ally in pri­vate mo­ments of the sort that es­caped the in­tru­sion of cam­eras and lenses.

The story is eked out with com­men­tary from a num­ber of ad­mir­ers, in­clud­ing the Gould bi­og­ra­pher Kevin Bazzana and sev­eral well-known mu­si­cians (vi­o­lin­ist Jaime Laredo, cel­list Fred Sherry, con­duc­tor and pi­anist Vladimir Ashke­nazy), al­though it’s some­times not clear just who is speak­ing in the voice-over. I do wish the film had not in­cluded a com­ment by Columbia record pro­ducer Howard Scott, who states that “the first piece he recorded for us, which no­body had ever done,” was the Gold­berg Vari­a­tions, since by then the Gold­bergs had been recorded quite a few times by oth­ers. Com­ing from the dis­tin­guished Scott, it’s easy to over­look as a mis­state­ment in a care­less moment; yet it is a fac­toid that seems to have lodged in the Gould mythol­ogy.

We are given a demon­stra­tion of the “fin­ger-tap­ping” tech­nique Gould learned from his teacher, the Chilean Cana­dian Al­berto Guer­rero; it, abet­ted by Gould’s idio­syn­cratic seat­ing on a chair just 13 inches off the floor, gave rise to the dis­tinc­tive clar­ity of his play­ing. We stop for short vis­its at var­i­ous high points of the mu­si­cian’s ca­reer: his sen­sa­tional Rus­sian tour of 1957; Leonard Bern­stein’s con­tro­ver­sial dis­tanc­ing him­self from a lugubri­ous Brahms col­lab­o­ra­tion with Gould in 1962; and Gould’s

“An icon in the same vein as James Dean”: Glenn Gould

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.