Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould

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Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould
Thirty two short films about glenn gould poster.jpg
Original Canadian theatrical release poster
Directed byFrançois Girard
Produced byMichael Allder
Niv Fichman
Barbara Willis Sweete
Larry Weinstein
Written byFrançois Girard
Don McKellar
StarringColm Feore
Derek Keurvorst
Katya Ladan
Music byGlenn Gould
CinematographyAlain Dostie
Edited byGaétan Huot
Distributed byRhombus Media
The Samuel Goldwyn Company
Release date
  • September 7, 1993 (1993-09-07) (Venice)[1]
  • September 14, 1993 (1993-09-14) (Toronto)
Running time
98 minutes[2]
Box office$1.3 million (U.S.)[3]

Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould is a 1993 Canadian biographical anthology film about the pianist Glenn Gould, played by Colm Feore. It was directed by François Girard, with a screenplay by Girard and Don McKellar.

The film is presented as a series of 31 short films rather than as one narrative. Segments include documentaries, consisting of interviews with individuals who knew the real Gould, and reenactments of episodes in Gould's life. "Gould Meets McLaren" employs animated spheres from Norman McLaren's filmography. The film received positive reviews and won four Genie Awards, including Best Motion Picture.


With memories revolving around the family's cottage near Lake Simcoe, Glenn Gould recalls how in his childhood, he had ostensibly made the decision to become a concert pianist at age five. In fact, he believes his mother had already chosen that career for him. He recalls being able to read music before he could read books, and learned the music of Johann Sebastian Bach from his mother. Gould later imagines interviewing himself, in which he confronts himself about why he chose to quit giving concerts at the age of 32, preferring to communicate to his audience through media instead. Gould reminds himself that the musician is inescapably an autocrat, no matter how benign.

In crafting radio documentaries, Gould works on a piece called The Idea of North, which touches on the effects the environment has on the solitude and isolation of the people of Northern Canada. In a media interview, Gould reveals that The Idea of North is one of only five of his documentaries about isolation, and that he intends to make a comedy next because he is tired of serious expression. Interviewers also push him to explain how he could achieve his level of musical perfection without interest in being overly technical in his piano playing. They ask why he insists on being interviewed only over the telephone. Others question if Gould's supposed obsession in technology is merely a smokescreen to keep his distance from real people.

As the markets plummet, Gould picks up word from the bodyguard of the visiting Sheik Yamani to invest in an obscure company called Sotex Resources, which is set to benefit from an exploration contract. Gould becomes the only client to profit in the wake of financial meltdown. However, Margaret Pacsu, a friend, notices Gould's bathroom is stocked heavily with various pills, including Valium, Trifluoperazine and Librax. Gould laughs off the idea that he is taking all of the pills simultaneously, and Pacsu does not notice any effects on his personality. As his birthday approaches, Gould becomes concerned that no one will attend his funeral, despite being aware of strong record sales in Central Europe and Japan. Gould dies at age 50 of a stroke. His cousin, Jessie Greig, says Gould was wrong and his funeral was heavily attended. He had noted Voyager I and Voyager II, space probes launched for possible contact with extraterrestrial intelligence, contains Bach's music as played by Gould.


  1. Aria
  2. Lake Simcoe
  3. Forty-Five Seconds and a Chair
  4. Bruno Monsaingeon: musician and collaborator
  5. Gould Meets Gould: text by Glenn Gould
  6. Hamburg
  7. Variation in c minor
  8. Practice
  9. The L.A. Concert
  10. CD318
  11. Yehudi Menuhin: violinist
  12. Passion According to Gould
  13. Opus 1: a composition by Glenn Gould
  14. Crossed Paths
  15. Truck Stop
  16. The Idea of North: a radio documentary by Glenn Gould
  17. Solitude
  18. Questions with No Answers
  19. A Letter
  20. Gould Meets McLaren: animation by Norman McLaren
  21. The Tip
  22. Personal Ad
  23. Pills
  24. Margaret Pacsu: friend
  25. Diary of One Day
  26. Motel Wawa
  27. Forty-Nine
  28. Jessie Greig: cousin
  29. Leaving
  30. Voyager
  31. Aria
  32. End Credits



Glenn Gould is played by Colm Feore.

Rhombus Media was established in 1979 with the goal to make a film about pianist Glenn Gould, who was still alive at the time. Producer Niv Fichman explained, "He was our greatest hero. So we thought we would have to make a few short films before we approached Gould to make one about him".[1] After Gould died in 1982, director François Girard mentioned the idea of making a biopic of the pianist in 1990, reviving Fichman's plans.[1]

Wishing to have an English Canadian screenwriter, Fichman and Girard proposed the idea to Don McKellar, who had a musical education. McKellar was initially opposed to the idea of adapting Gould's life into a film, calling it "an undramatic life".[4] However, Girard's concept of 32 "short films" intrigued him. McKellar claimed to write the humorous aspects of the screenplay, while Girard was responsible for the trivia.[4] Girard opted to model the screenplay after Bach's Goldberg Variations, which Gould had performed.[1]

Girard found writing challenging, saying, "As Gould was such a complex character, the biggest problem was to find a way to look at his work and deal with his visions. The film is built of fragments, each one trying to capture an aspect of Gould. There is no way of putting Gould in one box. The film gives the viewer 32 impressions of him. I didn't want to reduce him to one dimension."[5] The fact that the concept allowed for 32 segments led to the combination of documentary, fictional and "abstract" scenes, with Girard saying "I allowed myself to play the game to its limits".[6] The budget was $1.8 million.[4]

Actor Colm Feore watched available video and listened to sound recordings of Gould in order to develop his performance. He also read through 6,000 of Gould's letters.[4]


Violinist Yehudi Menuhin was interviewed for the film.

Girard took the first shots in Hamburg in August 1992, while Gould's genuine Steinway Grand Piano was moved to a church in Toronto for principal photography. Most filming took place in Toronto and Montreal. Feore and the filmmakers also shot scenes in Lake Saint Pierre in December 1992, for the scenes set in Northern Canada.[1]

The animation in the "Gould Meets McLaren" segment is clipped from Norman McLaren's film Spheres, published in 1969.[7] Violinist Yehudi Menuhin was among those interviewed for the film.[7]


The soundtrack consists almost entirely of piano recordings by Gould.[8] It includes pieces famously linked with him, such as Bach: The Goldberg Variations, and the Well-Tempered Clavier. It also features the prelude to Richard Wagner's Tristan und Isolde in the "Lake Simcoe" segment.[9]

Sony Classical released a soundtrack album on CD in 1994.[10] This was part of a strategy to obtain video rights for certain films, with the CD release timed to match the U.S. cinematic release in April.[11]


Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould debuted at the Venice Film Festival in September 1993,[1] where it received positive reviews. It also played at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 1993.[4] In 1994, it was one of 26 films featured in the Miami International Film Festival.[12]

Rhombus Media and Max Films was the Canadian distributor, and after the Toronto festival, made plans for an initial release in Montreal and Toronto.[4] In the U.S., it was distributed by The Samuel Goldwyn Company,[13] and opened in New York City on 14 April 1994.[14]

The Canadian Film Institute restored the film, and in co-operation with TIFF, it was played at Library and Archives Canada in January 2009.[15] A DVD was released in Region 1 in 2012.[16]


Critical reception[edit]

Roger Ebert awarded the film four stars, praising it for parting with the customary biopic format and challenging viewers to imagine themselves as Gould.[17] Janet Maslin of The New York Times assessed it as smart and highly interesting.[14] The Washington Post critic Desson Howe described the segments as exciting and revealing.[18] In Variety, Leonard Klady cited it as a rare film for achieving a picture of both an artist and the artist's work.[19] For Newsweek, David Ansen called it an "elegant, coolly funny movie".[20] The New Republic critic Stanley Kauffmann said it offered "teasing yet satisfactory glimpses- vivid, funny, cranky, passionate, eremitic, humane".[13]

In 2012, The New Yorker's Richard Brody wrote the film used unique methods to find Gould's brilliance.[16] In his 2015 Movie Guide, Leonard Maltin gave it two and a half stars, criticizing it as "too fragmented".[21] The film has an 89% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 19 reviews.[22]

Year-end lists[edit]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
Genie Awards 12 December 1993 Best Motion Picture Niv Fichman Won [33]
Best Direction François Girard Won
Best Screenplay Don McKellar and François Girard Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Kate Hennig Nominated
Best Cinematography Alain Dostie Won
Best Editing Gaétan Huot Won
Independent Spirit Awards 25 March 1995 Best Foreign Film François Girard Nominated [34]
Prix Italia 1995 Special Prize for Fiction Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould Won [35]
São Paulo International Film Festival 21 October – 4 November 1993 Jury Prize François Girard Won [36]


Girard and McKellar employed a few crew members from Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould for their next film, The Red Violin (1998). Cinematographer Alain Dostie, editor Gaétan Huot and Feore were among those who reunited for the project.[37]

The TV series The Simpsons gave homage to the film with the title of the episode "22 Short Films About Springfield", which aired on 14 April 1996.[38] The A.V. Club asserted many viewers in 1996 would have understood the title, noting the series Animaniacs also produced a 1996 short entitled "Ten Short Films About Wakko Warner".[39]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Vlessing, Etan (13 September 1993). "Thirty-two short films about Glenn Gould". Playback. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  2. ^ "Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould". Toronto International Film Festival. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  3. ^ "Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Schwartzberg, Shlomo (Fall 1993). "Glenn Gould film shines in Toronto". Performing Arts & Entertainment in Canada. 28 (3).
  5. ^ The Film Journal. 97. Pubsun Corp. 1 January 1994. p. 130. Retrieved 29 March 2011.
  6. ^ Glassman, Marc (Winter 1994). "In Search of Glenn Gould". Take One. p. 17.
  7. ^ a b Rosadiuk, Adam (2006). "Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould". The Cinema of Canada. London and New York: Wallflower Press. p. 168. ISBN 1904764606.
  8. ^ Said, Edward (9 May 2013). "32 Short Films About Glenn Gould". Music at the Limits. A & C Black. ISBN 978-1408845875.
  9. ^ Goldsmith, Melissa; Wilson, Paige; Fonseca, Anthony (7 October 2016). The Encyclopedia of Musicians and Bands on Film. Lanham, Boulder, London and New York: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 301. ISBN 978-1442269873.
  10. ^ "Gould variations". Stereo Review. Vol. 59 no. 5. May 1994. p. 101.
  11. ^ "Sony Bows Three Innovative Classical Videos". Billboard. 5 March 1994. p. 87.
  12. ^ Geist, Kenneth L. (1994). "Miami film festival". Films in Review. Vol. 45 no. 3–4.
  13. ^ a b Kauffmann, Stanley (25 April 1994). "The Gould Standard". The New Republic. Vol. 210 no. 17. pp. 26–27.
  14. ^ a b Maslin, Janet (14 April 1994). "Review/Film: Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould; A Musical Eccentric's Quirks And Talent". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  15. ^ "CFI presents new print of Thirty-two Short Films about Glenn Gould Jan. 24". Ottawa Citizen. 21 January 2009. Retrieved 6 April 2017.
  16. ^ a b Brody, Richard (13 June 2012). "DVD Of The Week: Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould". The New Yorker. Retrieved 6 April 2017.
  17. ^ Ebert, Roger (29 April 1994). "Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould". Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  18. ^ Howe, Desson (13 May 1994). "'32 Short Films About Glenn Gould' (NR)". The Washington Post. Retrieved 6 April 2017.
  19. ^ Klady, Leonard (17 September 1993). "Review: 'Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould'". Variety. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  20. ^ Ansen, David (25 April 1994). "Home alone with pianist Glenn Gould". Newsweek. Vol. 123 no. 17. p. 62.
  21. ^ Maltin, Leonard (2 September 2014). Leonard Maltin's 2015 Movie Guide: The Modern Era. Signet. ISBN 978-0698183612.
  22. ^ "Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould (1993)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  23. ^ Siskel, Gene (December 25, 1994). "The Year's Best Movies". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 19, 2020.
  24. ^ Turan, Kenneth (December 25, 1994). "1994: YEAR IN REVIEW : No Weddings, No Lions, No Gumps". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 20, 2020.
  25. ^ Maslin, Janet (December 27, 1994). "CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK; The Good, Bad and In-Between In a Year of Surprises on Film". The New York Times. Retrieved July 19, 2020.
  26. ^ Persall, Steve (December 30, 1994). ""Fiction': The art of filmmaking". St. Petersburg Times (City ed.). p. 8.
  27. ^ Schuldt, Scott (January 1, 1995). "Oklahoman Movie Critics Rank Their Favorites for the Year Without a Doubt, Blue Ribbon Goes to "Pulp Fiction," Scott Says". The Oklahoman. Retrieved July 20, 2020.
  28. ^ Strauss, Bob (December 30, 1994). "At the Movies: Quantity Over Quality". Los Angeles Daily News (Valley ed.). p. L6.
  29. ^ Movshovitz, Howie (December 25, 1994). "Memorable Movies of '94 Independents, fringes filled out a lean year". The Denver Post (Rockies ed.). p. E-1.
  30. ^ Pickle, Betsy (December 30, 1994). "Searching for the Top 10... Whenever They May Be". Knoxville News-Sentinel. p. 3.
  31. ^ Elliott, David (December 25, 1994). "On the big screen, color it a satisfying time". The San Diego Union-Tribune (1, 2 ed.). p. E=8.
  32. ^ Denerstein, Robert (January 1, 1995). "Perhaps It Was Best to Simply Fade to Black". Rocky Mountain News (Final ed.). p. 61A.
  33. ^ Playback Staff (3 January 1994). "Genies broadcast". Playback. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  34. ^ Natale, Richard (11 January 1995). "A Bit More Dependence Than In the Past : Movies: Independent Spirit Award nods expand definition to encompass works financed by production companies owned by major studios". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  35. ^ "Programmi Vincitori 1990-1999". Prix Italia. Archived from the original on 6 October 2013. Retrieved 6 April 2017.
  36. ^ "Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould". São Paulo International Film Festival. Retrieved 6 April 2017.
  37. ^ Jones, Eluned (2002). "Reconstructing the Past: Memory's Enchantment in The Red Violin". Canada's Best Features: Critical Essays on 15 Canadian Films. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi. p. 347. ISBN 9042015985.
  38. ^ Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia (eds.). The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family. Created by Matt Groening; edited by Ray Richmond and Antonia Coffman. (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. pp. 202–203. ISBN 978-0-06-095252-5. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M..
  39. ^ Murray, Noel (25 March 2010). "The Simpsons, '22 Short Films About Springfield'". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 5 April 2017.

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