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Brilliance is a funny thing. You can be brilliant in a certain way, yet still bore somebody's socks off. Gold, the metal, is brilliant. It shines under light and magnetizes the eye. But watching gold for a long time would be a tiresome process. Well, Gould, as gold, doesn't warrant much focussed watching, brilliant as he is; and if this film portrays him with any accuracy, he's about as brilliant as intellectuals can be.
The film-these films, rather-are expertly made, there's no doubt about it. The filmmakers insist that you know how very ingenious they are. They begin with the familiar vision of a long black figure amid white tundra. The figure moves, and very quickly you understand that it's a person, and that it's coming toward you. I felt as though I'd seen this exact same thing more than once before. The tundra represents isolation, and it represents Canada. Glenn Gould appears, alone. That's film number one of 32. And it's brilliant.
What are the 32 short movies about? They're about Glenn Gould. Who is Glenn Gould? He was a concert pianist who gave up public performance to do a few Cage-like word/noise pieces on the radio and to retreat into a personal seclusion broken only by hours of phone conversations and prescription drugs. Yes, here is another quirky pianist flick to put in your collection right next door to Shine. This one doesn't mimic Shine, however, by taking on an actual narrative that the viewer can follow. Instead, these films are a bold, new direction in moviemaking, breaking away from the narrow confines of storytelling. Glenn Gould is a cinematic numbered list, directed by a die-hard bean counter.
Here are some interesting facts about the brilliant Glenn Gould: 1) In the Voyager spacecraft, designed to be found by some extra-terrestrial intelligence someday (see Star Trek: The Motion Picture) there is a recording of a Bach prelude as played by Glenn Gould. 2) Glenn Gould stopped giving concerts suddenly partly because he preferred to live an isolated life and partly because of some hyper-intellectual aesthetic bugbear that he couldn't work out. 3) He was a Canadian. 4) He took a lot of pharmaceutical drugs. 5) He died at 50. Fascinating! Dare I say-Brilliant? This could be the start of a book for me entitled, "139 Very Short Essays about Glenn Gould."
The music in the film is excellent, as you'd expect from a film about a classical pianist. There is also a very good animated clip-one of the 32 films-that's worth seeing. Some interesting cinematography appears in the short film about Glenn Gould's prescription drug habit.
This movie doesn't have acting as much as it has something unnamable. It doesn't have a script, but rather, a sort of gravity. It isn't a narrative, but 32 sketches. Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant! As brilliant as nine and one-quarter stars. The effort is clear.
Maybe that tenth star would have shined had it been called "21 Short Films about Glenn Gould" or "13 Short Films about Glenn Gould." Maybe they can release a no-less-than-brilliant selection, entitled "2 of the Best Short Films about Glenn Gould." It's an idea. Meanwhile, Gould's recording of Bach spins through the cosmos on a collision course with destiny. Let's take a moment of bewildered introspection
©1999 by Randy Shandis Enterprises. All rights happily reserved.