Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould
Winter 2010 Documentary series
Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 7:00pm
Directed by Michèle Hozer and Peter Raymont
Rated PG ·
Glenn Gould is arguably the most documented classical musician of the last century. In addition to numerous films about him (including François Girard’s seminal Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould and two fine portraits from the National Film Board of Canada in the late fifties), Gould appeared in countless radio and television programmes, culminating with John McGreevy’s legendary Glenn Gould’s Toronto.
Still, few of these pieces have managed to capture the contradictions that made up Gould. Most have readily accepted his carefully groomed public persona. A notable aspect of Michèle Hozer and Peter Raymont’s (Shake Hands with the Devil) documentary is how it explores the incongruities between Gould’s private reality and his wider image. It investigates Gould’s personal life, specifically his long-running affair with painter Cornelia Foss, his drug intake and how his public facade began to take over his existence.
Genius Within is packed with compelling interviews with key people in Gould’s life, including childhood friends, collaborators and even pop singer Petula Clark (a semi-ironic obsession for Gould). Hozer and Raymont have unearthed some truly extraordinary unseen footage, like the short film Gould made with writer and photographer Jock Carroll in the Caribbean.
The documentary is a fascinating record of a key moment in our cultural history – that post-war period in the fifties and sixties when Canadian culture actually began to be discussed as a distinct entity. But what ultimately emerges is a man imprisoned by his own eccentricities and an image that came to dominate his life. In many ways, the film is a portrait of loneliness and isolation, which some saw as the overriding themes in Gould’s writing and radio work. Genius Within is an assured, comprehensive and balanced portrait of one of Canada’s most significant cultural icons.