Glenn Gould is arguably the most documented classical musician of the last century. In addition to numerous films about him (including François Girard’s seminal Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould and two fine portraits by Roman Kroitor), Gould appeared in countless radio and television programmes, culminating with John McGreevy’s legendary Glenn Gould’s Toronto.
Still, few of these pieces have managed to truly capture all of the myriad contradictions that made up Gould. Most have readily accepted his carefully groomed public persona. One of the more notable aspects of Michèle Hozer and Peter Raymont’s Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould is how it explores the incongruities between Gould’s private reality and his wider image. It investigates Gould’s personal life, specifically his long-running affair with painter Cornelia Foss, his drug intake and how his public facade began to take over his existence.
Genius Within is packed with compelling interviews with key people in Gould’s life, including childhood friends, collaborators and even pop singer Petula Clark (a semi-ironic obsession for Gould). Hozer and Raymont have unearthed some truly extraordinary unseen footage, like the short film Gould made with writer and photographer Jock Carroll in the Caribbean.
The documentary is a fascinating record of a key moment in our cultural history – that post-war period in the fifties and sixties when you could actually begin to discuss Canadian culture as a distinct entity. But what ultimately emerges is a man imprisoned by his own eccentricities and an image that came to dominate his life. In many ways, the film is a portrait of loneliness and isolation, which some saw as Gould’s overriding themes in his radio work and writing. Genius Within is an assured, comprehensive and balanced portrait of one of Canada’s most significant cultural icons. —TIFF
This week, Manohla Dargis is back. So are the French, but it's the documentaries that look most interesting, so that's where we'll begin