Glass: A portrait of philip in twelve parts

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Glass
LABELS: Drakes Avenue Picture
WORKS: Assorted
PERFORMER: A film by Scott Hicks Philip Glass, with Ravi Shankar, Chuck Close, Errol Morris and Martin Scorcese
CATALOGUE NO: DAP 7768 (NTSC system; 5.1 surround sound; 16:9 picture format)

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‘I only have one secret: get up early and work hard all day.’ This is an unsurprising revelation from one of the most prolific, successful and most often imitated contemporary composers. Philip Glass makes this comment whilst preparing pizza in the kitchen of his summer home in Nova Scotia, soon after asking the director, somewhat incredulously, ‘You’re not saying you’re gonna document this whole thing?’ Well, yes he is: these days it seems mandatory for all documentaries to include interviews with people while they are cooking.

Scott Hicks was granted unprecedented access to Glass’s working and personal life for 18 months, starting in July 2005. Occasionally this resulted in something startling and moving, as when Glass’s wife, Holly, tearfully reveals that she feels she and Glass are growing apart.

There are also some pleasant, if largely unenlightening episodes, such as Glass’s re-union with Ravi Shankar. Frankly, though, there are stretches of the film that feel like padding, and everything we learn about Glass, his music and his beliefs, could have been conveyed in 75 minutes rather than 115, whilst the 12 parts, alluding to Glass’s seminal work, Music in 12 Parts (1971-74), are arbitrary divisions, and could just as easily have been gathered into 11 or five themed sections, or even one.

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For me, the extras on both the main and bonus discs are what make this a desirable purchase. Disc 1 includes deleted scenes that are sometimes more illuminating than those which were retained, and disc 2 has some marvellous performance/rehearsal footage. Barry Witherden