Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Oscar-shortlisted film Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould now online for free

PBS is streaming the Oscar-shortlisted documentary Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould for free until January 11, 2011. Also included are several outtakes and a print interview with the directors, Peter Raymont & Michèle Hozer.

The film is an outstanding portrait of the great Canadian pianist Glenn Gould. It provides a comprehensive look at his life, so that non-musicians and those unfamiliar with him will get a strong sense of his fascinating personality and his art. Yet it is also of great interest to musicians and those who already know a good deal about his life. The filmmakers have dug quite deep into their material to discover who he was both as a man and as a musician.

Not all of it is flattering of course. But we get to see his humanity as a result. We learn how some of his eccentricities were cultivated intentionally when he was young, but later became all too real when his hypochondria led him to take medications haphazardly (we've seen with the recent deaths of Heath Ledger and Michael Jackson how combining medications can be deadly dangerous). We also get a detailed look at the previously unknown affair that he had with Cornelia Foss, the wife of his friend the American composer Lucas Foss.

For me, the most interesting moments are when his peers and colleagues discuss his musicianship. They don't just praise him, but provide musical insights. I was particularly curious with how Ruth Watson Henderson talked about studying under Alberto Guerrero and a finger-tapping technique that he taught. After demonstrating it, she plays a piece and sounds rather Gouldian herself.

All too often, music films and documentaries just skim the surface or wallow in clichés. Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould is one of the rare films that has a deep understanding of its subject. It leaves you with a greater appreciation for Gould, his art and music in general.

Visit the PBS website's page for Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould here. You can also read an interview with Peter Raymont at the Telefilm website.

H/t to the Sound Mind music blog.

Watch the full episode. See more American Masters.

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