[2008077] Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts

Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts (Festival page)

@ Piccadilly Cinema

11:00am, Mon 10 Mar 2008

I know dick-all about Philip Glass, which could possibly be deemed bad given the high profile of the upcoming Book of Longing. I mean yes, I know he’s a minimalist composer, and did the score for all those slideshow movies with the unpronounceable names that are held in ultra-high regard by film aesthetes, and that South Park took the piss out of him one episode. But outside that… nothing.

So a doco about the man? Could come in handy, that. And it’s quite possibly the easiest-to-get-to show for me… ever. The main cinema at the Piccadilly is packed – this event is sold out. It’s also my favourite screen in Adelaide at the moment, though I reckon its life is limited (with the obscene plans for the old Le Cornu site in North Adelaide – but that’s another, much grumpier, story). Surprisingly, Scott Hicks appears just prior to the film starting to give a big thank-you to all in attendance, and to talk about the financing of the movie – when funding for the movie finally eventuated, it didn’t come from international sources: it came from private investors in Adelaide. Which is nice.

The movie itself is broken – very overtly – into the requisite twelve parts, and is quite grainy in parts – Hicks did much of the camera work himself using a small digital camera. The surprising thing is the amount of humour in the film – Glass (and many of his collaborators) come across as very funny people… Glass himself tells the knock-knock joke. Even his family get in on the act; Glass’ sister makes some devilish swipes at “The Wives“.

Whilst the film contains a lot of archival photos & footage, it often sits and focuses on the “now”: which was when Glass was scoring Waiting For The Barbarians. This has the unfortunate effect of making the film, at times, feel more like a puff-piece for the opera, than a documentary of Glass’ life; of course it’s understandable that the movie should feature prominently – it was a major part of his life at the time – but it detracted, all the same.

Various snippets of Glass’ work is used to back the film throughout, and it’s thoroughly enjoyable. But for me, the highlight came when an interview with current wife Holly gets a little emotional. Holly tears up whilst talking of their diverging paths through life, and you feel the end of their relationship is near – only to be interrupted by Glass asking for her computer password. She wipes the tears away before turning to inform him of the password, then turns back to camera, dropping back into the morose mood… but suddenly she’s defending herself, leaping away from the hurt by laughing “now you all know my password!” It’s a standout human moment in a film that manages to create very human picture of all involved.

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