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The Princess Plays the Palace

May 18, 2014

For two years running, the Cannes Film Festival has screened biopics about princesses. In 2013, Naomi Watts appeared in Diana. The critics reached for their long knives, scathing in their reviews. This year Nicole Kidman appeared as Grace Kelly in Grace of Monaco, screened on opening night. The critics, no longer content with sharp knives, pulled out their Veg-O-Matics. Their job required the right tool, one that could slice and dice. (Read Peter Bradshaw’s review in The Guardian for example).

Which indirectly brings me to some thoughts about biopics. The genre often seems constricted by certain tropes long in practice. Yet, people’s lives don’t conform to the requirements of dramatic or literary fiction.

In Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould (1993), François Girard discarded narrative structure for an impressionistic look at the enigmatic Canadian pianist. Using vignettes, Girard created a kaleidoscopic view addressing assorted aspects of Glenn Gould’s life and pursuits.

Girard utilized the constructs of film and its close relationship to music to break with the biopic form. He invested his film with a musical sensibility, asked his audience to think about who Glenn Gould was and how he perceived the world.

Roger Ebert wrote that the film “challenged our imagination to feel the music” that comprised the man.

Trailer – Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould



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  1. Ed Potter permalink

    My recommend…go see IDA…


    • IDA directed by Pawel Pawlikowski

      Anna, a young novitiate nun in 1960s Poland, is on the verge of taking her vows when she discovers a dark family secret dating back to the years of the Nazi occupation.


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