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Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould

Ostensibly a documentary focusing on the child prodigy who grew to become the world's foremost Bach interpreter, Canada's most celebrated classical pianist, and a national hero, Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould is not a dramatic story arc depicting yet another "life of a tortured genius." Instead, director François Girard, co-writer Don McKellar, and actor Colm Feore playfully give us an impressionistic mosaic of Gould through thirty-two modular vignettes. Linking these fragments is a soundtrack of Gould's exquisite recordings, and their construction mirrors the piece that Gould made his own, Bach's Goldberg Variations. Some of these segments are realistic, recreating moments from Gould's life or giving us interviews with people who knew him. Others are imaginary realistic moments created to illuminate a singular essence. Some are abstract, such as "Diary of One Day" with its animated X-rays of Gould's hands, skull, and bloodstream, or "Gould Meets McLaren," with its Fantasia-like computer-animated imagery. As played with deft clarity by Feore, Gould keeps the world at arm's length, yet maintains a winsome sense of humor while insulating himself physically and psychologically from others, even those he is closest to. By design Thirty Two Short Films is not a deeply penetrating portrait. Still, it succeeds in introducing Glenn Gould — the man and the musician — to new audiences. Its pieces elegantly coalesce into a novel means of getting to know a man who succeeded brilliantly at being unknowable. It won four 1994 Genie Awards (the Canadian "Oscar"), including Best Picture and Best Director.

Columbia Tri-Star's DVD brings us a fine transfer from pristine source material. The two-sided disc offers both a widescreen format (1.85:1 anamorphic) and a cropped full-screen "reformatted to fit your TV" version.
—Mark Bourne

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