A film by Bruno Monsaingeon
Studio: IdealAudience DVD9DM20 (Distr. by Naxos)
Video: 16:9 anamorphic enhanced
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.0 & 2.0
No regional coding
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese
Extras: 20-page illustrated booklet, DVD-ROM section
Length: 106 minutes
Bruno Monsaingeon has directed numerous documentaries on the eccentric Canadian pianist and was nonplussed to be asked to do another one. But he outdid himself in this fascinating retrospective of the life, work and ideas of Glenn Gould, which draws from archival video, stills and audio material – some of it never before released. The film is designed as though Gould himself is narrating it, and it opens up his own unique world view – not just of music but of everything – to the viewer. Short excerpts of his many performances preserved from CBC-TV appearances and previous Monsaingeon films include snippets of music by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms Schubert, Chopin, Weber, Prokofiev, Hindemith, Schoenberg and others. The booklet essay by Monsaingeon is well worth reading; he says he has never known one who loved music with such a devouring passion. His treatment of Gould in this film is partly fictional but gives a touching overall impression of the genius of the pianist.
Some of the people interviewed in the film are still devotees of the pianist decades after his death. One touching scene is a woman who had known him talking to the very realistic bronze statue of him on a park bench in Toronto. Another describes how she doesn’t understand the complaints of those decrying Gould’s singing and humming while he performed at the piano – she feels it imparts a much more human characteristic to the performance and that piano recordings seem cold without it. We get to see his famous beat-up chair which he always used at the piano – it looks terribly uncomfortable, with no real seat. Gould holds forth in archival videos on such subjects as his suddenly ceasing concert hall performances, the creative process of editing recordings, and how exaggerated the press is about his suitcase of pills – he says it all fits in a briefcase. His tremendous effect on listeners around the world is portrayed – in Russia, Japan, everywhere.
– John Sunier