Friday, November 12, 2010

Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould

I just returned from a showing at the Portland Museum of Art of Michele Hozer and Peter Raymont's film: "GENIUS WITHIN: THE INNER LIFE OF GLENN GOULD."

Though I've been obsessed with Mr. Gould since childhood (he was one of my earliest inspirations for attempting a career in music), the film opens up areas I had not previously known about him. Through numerous interviews with his first girlfriend, his best friend, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Lukas and Cornelia Foss (and both their children), clips of Leonard Bernstein (including his now rather hilarious pre-performance speech before they performed the Brahms D minor Concerto - about their enormous differences on the work), the film is rich in both talk and music.

The biggest revelation to me was the affair between Gould and Mrs. Foss which lasted several years, and for which she left her husband, moving herself and the children to Montreal, and the slow disintegration of that relationship as Gould's eccentricities became more and more pronounced. It was touching and poignant in a way that almost seemed invasive.

I'd almost forgotten how devastatingly handsome was Gould in his youth, like a 50's movie star, really. There is, naturally, a good deal centered around his early years and the beginning of his performing career, with some wonderful clips of his tour of the Soviet Union.

There are also some generous clips of Gould's own movies, including one particularly hilarious short with Gould appearing on the beach, coat, gloves, the works, sitting in a director's chair, then having some gorgeous black woman in a bikini doing an exotic combination that recalled the Watusi and the Girl from Imponema, the last shot of which finds Gould pants legs rolled up and sort of half "directing" her and dancing a bit in the ocean himself. (The audience went into hysterics - and it was truly funny stuff!)

The film deals openly (and fairly in depth) about Gould's departure from the concert stage at only 31 years of age, and his drug addictions, hypocondria, and difficulties in his relationships, never in a gossipy manner, but with a rather matter-of-fact honesty that does not in the least diminish one's respect for Gould's genius.

At just under two hours, this is one of the most satisfying documentary portraits of a 20th century classical musician I believe I've ever seen - and yet, upon the closing credits, I found I wanted even more. The audience reacted loudly throughout (several people even clapping along with Petula Clark during her rendition of "Downtown."

If this is showing anywhere near you, I urge you to see this. It's a beautiful peaen to one of the most iconic performers of the last century, done with extraordinary care, and not just a little love for its subject. Highly

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,