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Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould
Time Out New York Project: Issue #780, September 9-15, 2010
Dirs. Michèle Hozer and Peter Raymont. 2009. N/R. 109mins. Documentary.
Michèle Hozer and Peter Raymont’s portrait of pianist Glenn Gould initially promises to be more of an abstract collage than a traditional doc. Things get off to an appropriately rhythmic start: An apparently tongue-in-cheek promotional film of Gould going to record his unflaggingly popular 1955 album of Bach’s Goldberg Variations is interwoven with present-day voiceover interviews and some soaring, implications-of-genius nature shots. Then the talking heads take over, and the stylistic deviations soon morph into disruptive distractions (e.g., a Gould body double walking along desolate Canadian streets).
There’s still a wealth of information and opinion to maintain one’s interest. The most affecting scenes feature Gould’s lover, Cornelia Foss, and her children speaking openly about the pleasures and challenges of living with him. And opera singer Roxolana Roslak tells a humorous anecdote about rehearsing with Gould: They decompressed from their intense recording sessions by watching Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. The artist’s brilliance is often presumed by the filmmakers and their subjects, rather than grappled with, which is understandable, but it makes the movie an ultimately detached experience. Gould is as much of a mystery at the end as at the beginning. You get the feeling that’s the way he’d have wanted it.—Keith Uhlich
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