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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould (2010)


Jim Morrison wouldn’t have lasted a day with Mozart around, shaking things up.

Meet Glenn Gould, a child prodigy pianist who traveled over from Canada into the U.S., and made quite a name for himself in the classical music genre. He did certain things to original composings by Bach and Mozart that nobody had ever dared tried to do before and his unique style of playing the piano really made him an act that people needed to see, as soon as possible. Problem was, off the stage and away from the crowd, Gould was something of a troubled-dude. He didn’t have many friends, and for those who could consider them as such, didn’t really know him all that well. Did it stem from the fact that he was a hypochondriac? Was it because he and his family hardly ever spoke? Or, was it simply because he was just too smart for his own good? Whatever the reason may have been, is totally unknown, because just as soon as he hit the ripe of age of 50, Gould passed away, leaving a legion of adoring fans and pieces of work in the dust.

The general consensus of classical music is that, for the most part, it’s considered “pretentious”. The music itself; the people who conduct it; the people who listen to it – it doesn’t matter, it’s all pretentious. Some of that’s correct and some of it isn’t, because classical music is just like any other music out there. Sure, there usually aren’t any lyrics in any classical pieces, and there certainly aren’t any surprise guest-appearances by Lil’ Jon to be found either; but it’s music no less and it deserves to be treated as such.

That’s why, despite not having much of a background in classical music, I decided to give this documentary a shot. And I’m glad I did because I realized one key element to music that I so desperately needed to be reminded of: Every piece of music matters. And sometimes, not even just the pieces themselves, it’s those who create it, why, and the kind of impact they left on the music world for creating this one piece of music. Some may consider it “bad”, others, “a near-masterpiece”, but overall, it’s music that made a difference and I don’t see any problem with that whatsoever.

Ironic, I guess?

Ironic, I guess?

Which is why watching Glenn Gould’s story be told to us in a chronological, simple way was compelling; he’s the type of artist most comedy sketch-shows make fun of because of how strange he was, but that’s sort of the mystery behind Glenn Gould, the person, hence why Glenn Gould, the musician, was so enthralling to begin with.

And while watching this documentary, you sort of get the impression that Gould was just like every other musician out there who has ever been touted as “the next big thing”, only to have a nervous breakdown, turn away from the public eye, do whatever they want and basically, fade off into oblivion. However, in the case of Gould, there’s something slightly different – even while he was away and doing his own thing, in his own spare time, the man was still working and keeping himself busy, it just wasn’t what anybody was expecting him to be working on.

Rather than sticking straight to creating classical music, Gould traveled out into different places like the recording studio, radio, film-making, acting, writing, etc. And while he was working on these various different forms, he was finding more and more ways to make them accessible to those who wanted to work with them. He was the type of artist that was considered being perfect at his craft, yet, didn’t let that fully get to this head and just lounge out till the end of his days, while simultaneously collecting paycheck, after paycheck. Nope, not Glenn Gould and there’s something refreshing to see that in a musician of his stature.

Though it may seem like I’m just filling this review up to talk on and on about Gould himself, rather than actually focus on the movie at all, I can assure you, that is not the case. It’s just difficult to talk about a documentary when it’s main attraction is the subject itself in whom it is documenting. Because with Glenn Gould, you get a person who did something wonderful with his instrument and the world he lived in, yet, didn’t know exactly what to do with all of that notoriety. Instead, he just got away from it all and continued to live a quiet, peaceful life. But while this may all seem peachy-keen, the movie assures you it’s not. Most of this is due to the fact that Gould mostly kept to himself, but that he also didn’t always treat those around him with the utmost love and respect.

Play that funky music, white boy!

Play that funky music, white boy!

Later on by the end of the film, we get the impression that Gould was really “losing it” by the end of his life, which isn’t just sad because it’s a fragile, yet, incredible mind going to waste, but that all of those who ever supported him, were nowhere to be found. That’s not necessarily their fault, as much as it is his own, but it’s still interesting to see how this guy reacts to the fame brought onto him for his magnificent playing skills and also how he seemingly pushed any of those who ever loved him, away.

Which, once again, brings us to the mystery of just who the hell this person truly was underneath the wonderful piano-playing? Was he some sort of genius that was a lot better at playing music, then performing it in front of huge crowds and having to promote it? Or, simply, was he just another Kurt Cobain of his day? A creative genius that, sadly, was misunderstood by all of those around him. Thankfully, for Gould, there was no MTV, there was no Courtney Love and there sure as hell was no Smells Like Teen Spirit. Instead, there was just him against the world and it what proved to be his predictable, yet utterly tragic downfall.

Consensus: Regardless of your musical interests, Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould will please anybody looking for an intriguing documentary about a subject who wasn’t what we’d call “normal”, nor would we call “uninteresting”.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

How I usually sit. But in crowded rooms, mind you.

How I usually sit. But in crowded rooms, mind you.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

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5 responses to “Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould (2010)

  1. mikeladano September 2, 2014 at 11:27 am

    I didn’t know this existed. Huge fan of Glenn Gould!

  2. cindybruchman September 2, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    Good post. Glenn Gould was a mental mess and brilliant pianist. A very artsy, experimental biopic is ‘Thirty-Two Short Films of Glenn Gould’ (1993). It’s really fantastic.

  3. CMrok93 September 2, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    He seemed like he was, hence why his life is so tragic in hindsight.

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