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Fine. After giving it some more thought (a week’s thought, to be exact), I’m taking back my harsh comments on 32 Short Films about Glen Gould. I definitely still think it’s a very pretentious film – which, instead of making classical music and its performers more accessible to the mainstream public, enlarges the divide that is already in place. I mean, the movie is so obviously a high brow cultural product that, just like the music itself, is only comprehensible to a small majority that is already familiar with this type of musical enjoyment. Of course, one could argue that classical music is, by nature, a type of high-end culture, and that the likely viewers of 32 Short Films would probably be classical music aficionados anyway. But my question is: why? Why should it be like that? That was my main criticism of the film: that it had the chance to make classical music more accessible and its performers more comprehensible, but that it kind of missed that opportunity by taking a very elitist and ultra-artsy approach to its subject.

That being said, I realized, after taking some time away from it, that I did appreciate the unconventional approach to the biopic that Girard took with this project. Thus, strictly in terms of the generic paradigms of the biopic, I must admit that his vision is laudable and that from a narrative perspective, it is really interesting how he painted a full-fledged portrait of Gould from such dichotomous and incongruous fragments. Also, it is extremely revealing to think of these fragments in the context of the new video aesthetic that characterizes the contemporary age of digital convergence and to appreciate, as we discussed in class, the mutability of the fragments and their ability to be rearranged within the larger narrative and produce whole new meanings and decodings.

Of all the 32 clips, I especially liked the earlier one, where Gould plays his recording in the hotel room for the German maid, and I think that it was particularly well crafted in that it showcased so well the extreme beauty and force of his music, expressed so powerfully in the maid’s simple and heartfelt “thank you” at the end of the listening session. What is interesting about my enjoyment of this fragment in particular is that it is extremely similar to a scene you might find in a conventional biopic (perhaps, after the childhood scene showing the origins of his involvement with music, the German maid scene is most closely aligned to the genre of the biopic), and I have just emphasized how I really appreciated the fact that the film was NOT a conventional biopic – therefore, if it contained only scenes similar to the one I liked best, it would probably lose its generic originality that I so respected. I guess the answer to maintaining its innovative approach lies in combining such conventional scenes with the more uncommon ones – like the animation or the Gould-Gould interview – but then again, in my opinion, it’s walking a very thin line between elitism and originality. And I don’t know if I appreciate that. But I do appreciate the fact that it was powerful enough to generate such contradictions in my mind, and to make me think about it – and I’m not exaggerating – every single day since I saw it. And finally, I really really really appreciate the continuous musical score, and I don’t appreciate the fact that piracy has not yet made Gould available for downloading, and I do appreciate that I can call films like this elitist without remorse, because I’m smart enough but hippie enough to do it. There.

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