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Genius Within: The Inner Life Of Glenn Gould (4 stars)

Film of archive material untangles the the life of Canadian pianist

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Genius Within: The Inner Life Of Glenn Gould

(U) 108min

What a deliriously nutty double bill this film would make alongside Thirty Two Short Films about Glenn Gould, François Girard’s schematic but pleasingly conceptual project completed in 1993. Michèle Hozer and Peter Raymont’s feature documentary is a different beast to Girard’s film, even if its aim to reappraise is as true.

Utilising never-before seen footage, photographs, home recordings and diary entries, Genius Within is a largely successful attempt to untangle the many myths that surround the life, talent and mental health of brilliant Canadian pianist and enigmatic musical poet Glenn Gould.

Hozer and Raymont, whose previous work together includes the remarkable genocide massacre documentary Shake Hands with the Devil and Triage, do not take the easy option. The trajectory of the young Gould’s rise to god-like piano genius whose live Bach recitals on both sides of the Iron Curtain and in North America seemed to stop the world briefly in the late 1950s, was so swift it would have been easy to gloss over it. These filmmakers get stuck right in: they talk to old girlfriends and fellow students, use footage of his mentor and teacher Alberto Guerrero and slowly pull together a portrait of musical monoclinism born of superior genes and endless trance-like practice.

Out of the other end of this section emerges Gould the classical music superstar of the late 1950s/early 1960s. Part Marlon Brando, part Theodor Adorno. A sense of rarefaction, need for solitude and an obsession with both arcane and progressive sound technology eventually took Gould out of the public eye, but it is from this period of self-imposed exile that these filmmakers bring to bear the weight of their research and new found material. We find Gould in love, emotionally exposed; Gould the hypochondriac; and ultimately, Gould the man in need of registering the aging process with a revisit to arguably his greatest achievement, his 1956 recording of the Goldberg Variations. And then to his early death and the mass grieving at the funeral (3000 people attended). Hozer and Raymont’s film is a hymn to Gould’s gift of clarity and communion.

Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Fri 21–Thu 27 Jan.

Genius Within: The Inner Life Of Glenn Gould

  • 4 stars
  • 2009
  • Canada
  • U
  • Directed by: Michèle Hozer, Peter Raymont

Utilising never-before seen footage, photographs, home recordings and diary entries, Hozer and Raymont's documentary is a largely successful attempt to untangle the many myths that surround the life, talent and mental health of the enigmatic but extraordinary piano genius.

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