Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts

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Filmmaker Scott Hicks, who has experience dealing with the world of classical music thanks to his highly successful "Shine," returns to the subject with this documentary portrait of composer Philip Glass.

Designed to celebrate its subject's 70th birthday and being fortuitously released in conjunction with the highly acclaimed Metropolitan Opera production of the composer's "Satyagraha," "Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts," from Koch Lorber Films, is rewardingly intimate and frustratingly distant.

The intimacy stems from the access granted to the filmmaker not only by the composer but also by numerous friends, family and collaborators who offer their viewpoints on his life and career. For much of the film, Hicks spends time with Glass as he engages in a wide range of activities both personal and professional, from preparing for the premiere of his latest opera to making homemade pizza to practicing his yoga to playing with his children.

The distance arises from Glass, whose straightforwardness and lack of pretentiousness are offset by an undeniable emotional guardedness. The latter is touched upon one of the film's final moments, in which Glass's fourth wife, Holly, briefly lets her despair over their distant relationship show through.

The film, which indulges in such stylistic flights of fancy as an opening sequence featuring Glass riding Coney Island's Cyclone roller coaster to the strains of his own swirling, repetitive music, is most successful as a detailed depiction of a serious, hardworking artist in the thick of his creative process. In one of his few attempts at philosophizing, the seemingly inexhaustible composer declares, "Get up early and work all day; that's the only rule."


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