Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould

Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould (1993), a film directed by François GIRARD and written by Girard with Don MCKELLAR, offers 32 biographical insights into the life of Canadian pianist Glenn GOULD. Non-linear in its construction, the film is made up of 32 segments, each of which explains a facet of Gould's complex interior life (the title refers to the number of the Goldberg Variations, Gould's most famous interpretation). Gould's odd relationships with friends, his obsession with long phone calls, his ideas about music and the human voice are just a few of the themes dealt with in the film. Several segments deal with his celebrated 1967 radio documentary, The Idea of the North. Another sequence attempts to reconstruct the abstract symphony of human and mechanical sound as it might have struck Gould when he entered a truck stop on the edge of Toronto, a concept of sound and music that was central to Gould's radio work. One of the "short films" is an animated piece by Norman MCLAREN with Gould's piano playing on the soundtrack.

Thirty Two Short Films marked a shift in style for Canada's semi-commercial cinema. Although Canadian filmmakers David CRONENBERG, Atom EGOYAN and Patricia ROZEMA had gained significant international attention during the 1980s and early 1990s, Thirty Two Short Films departed from the narrative strategy of these filmmakers and turned instead to Canada's rich tradition of EXPERIMENTAL FILM and video for its inspiration. Experimental filmmaker Arthur Lipsett's innovative assembly of film fragments may have influenced the structure of Girard's film, while Michael SNOW's minimalism could have inspired the sequence in Thirty Two Short Films composed only of extreme close-ups of piano hammers hitting the strings. In Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, however, Girard made formal innovation widely accessible, leading the viewer gently along the path of non-narrative, and not so far from the avant garde.

Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, which featured a highly complex and subtle performance by Colm FEORE in the role of Gould, brought Canadian cinema exceptional visibility on the world's screens, playing to considerable critical acclaim in both the US and Europe. It was also critically successful within Canada, winning a number of Genies in 1993, including Best Picture.