Saturday, August 29, 2009

cinema obscura: François Girard's "Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould" (1993)

The compelling Boston-born, Canadian-based actor Colm Feore received a rare showcasing in his best role to date in "Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould" (1993), the inventively fragmented bio-documentary by François Girard about the famed piano prodigy. Girard's formidable accomplishment is that his film works as a mediation on the distance between the physical sensation of the man's art and the memory of him.

Gould was noted for his interpretation of Bach's Goldberg Variations, which consists of 32 short pieces of music. Inspired by this, Girard's wholly original film (co-written with actor-filmmaker Don McKellar) offers 32 impressions of Gould which range from interviews with people who knew him to short recreations of aspects of his life, plus some odds and ends. Unlike most biopics, this one doesn't aim to be definitive or conclusive, but leaves the viewer with a vague sense that there is no resolution. Which is exactly what makes it unique.

But Gould comes evasively to life in this ingenious, near-surreal take, thanks largely to Feore's shimmering, anchoring performance.


John Kaiser said...

I've like Feore ever since he played Andre Linoge in "Stephen King's Storm of the Century".

Daryl Chin said...

This is definitely one of those films which seems to have disappared (though it's been making some appearances on the Ovation cable network, though with commerical interruptions). I remember it as a very original and impressive approach to a biographical film: to include documentary material as well as acted material as well as speculative material. I just thought it was a very special movie, and i'm sorry it seems to have been dropped into oblivion. And i've been waiting for Colm Feore to have another shot at a truly worthy part.

wwolfe said...

If you're a Feore fan, I heartily recommend "Bon Cop, Bad Cop" (2006), the highest grossing Canadian film in history, about a a corpse that inconveniently turns up on top of the sign marking the border between Quebec and Ontario, forcing the titular cops - one from each province - to work together to solve the crime. Even better is the second season of the truly marvelous "Slings and Arrows," in which Feore plays an ad-man named Sanjay. To say more would be to spoil the fun, but each of this series' three seasons is a delight.