Saturday, June 18, 2011

Movie review: "The Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould"

I'm an interesting test case for this documentary because, before I sat down to watch it, I had never heard of Glenn Gould. (Insert your gasps of incredulity here.) Yep, I had knew nothing about this famous
– I guess – Canadian pianist.

Glenn Gould
So could this film help me understand what made Glenn Gould so special?  Yes, in many ways it did. It offers up samples of his music that are intriguing, inventive and often playful. The filmmakers  assembled an impressive array of his friends, classmates and fellow musicians who illuminate Gould's quirky personality and exuberance for music.

We learn why Gould carried a special chair with him for every concert (he needed one that was particularly low to the ground) and we get hear how Gould gave new personality to familiar works by altering the tempo. The filmmakers do well making the breakthroughs of Gould music clear even to a non-musician like myself.

What this film could not do, however, was hold my interest for its full one hour and 50 minutes.  After about an hour, I felt I knew enough about Gould. Besides, at that point the story seemed to be drifting away from Gould's musical life.

Of course, if you're especially interested in Glenn Gould you might not have quit where I did. For me, an hour was about right.


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