Directed by: François Girard
Starring: Colm Feore, Derek Keurvorst, Katya Ladan, David Hughes, Don McKellar
For the uninitiated, Glenn Gould was an acclaimed Canadian pianist — a very eccentric Canadian pianist who wore a coat, muffler and gloves in any weather, and who had a tendency to hum along when he played. He grew increasingly disatisfied with performing in concert halls — for reasons that changed depending on his mood or perhaps depending on who he was talking to — and one day just abruptly stopped, deciding to devote himself exclusively to recording. His behavior was at all times on the quirky side, so it was apt that when Canadian filmmaker François Girard (The Red Violin) decided to make a film about Gould, he made an equally quirky one. That was Thirty Two Short Fulms About Glenn Gould (1993), which is exactly what it says it is (assuming you accept the end credits as a short film). The 32 little movies — mirroring Bach’s 32 Goldberg Variations — are an odd set of films. Some are documentary in nature. Some are reconstructions or imaginings of events in Gould’s life (with Colm Feore playing Gould). And others are harder to describe like Norman McLaren’s animated sequence. Taken as a whole, they manage to create a mosaic picture of the artist and his life — a biopic of sorts that deliberately avoids amy real attempt at demystifying Gould. In fact, it raises as many questions — especially in the engaging section, “Questions with No Answers” — as it answers. That’s perhaps as it should be. It doesn’t always work, but the attempt is sufficiently refreshing, making it worthwhile.
In Brief: An eccentric film — or series of little films — about the equally eccentric Canadian pianist Glenn Gould. It sounds more awkward than it plays — and it does come together to offer a kind of biographical narrative, albeit a frequently playful and deliberately enigmatic one. Some of the vignettes work better than others, but it’s an interesting and different approach to the biopic.