Film Spotlight: GLASS
What roller coasters have to do with German opera and Martin Scorsese.
By Maria Popova
Philip Glass is easily our greatest living composer. His operas — like Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha, and The Voyage — have gotten a multitude of standing ovations throughout the world’s leading houses. Sometimes controversial, often revolutionary, and always extraordinary, he has collaborated with cultural legends like Woody Allen and David Bowie and scored critic darlings like Notes on a Scandal, The Hours, The Truman Show and Martin Scorsese’s Kundun, influencing the musical and intellectual currents of our time.
In 2005, filmmaker Scott Hicks (Shine) began shooting a documentary in honor of Glass’ 70th birthday in 2007. So, over the next 18 months, he followed the iconic composer across 3 continents, with unprecedented access to every corner of his life.
The result, GLASS: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts, is a fascinating film revealing the most intimate and complex layers of the man’s remarkable character. From his annual ride on the Coney Island Cyclone roller coaster to the grand premiere of his new opera in Germany, the film treks the intricate intersection between the personal and the professional, an inextricable parallel of passions so fundamental to genius.
The film is structured in 12 chapters, each exploring a different facet of Glass’ life and work. It offers a portal into his history and past, the elements that shaped his work, all filtered through the present-day experience.
What makes GLASS so powerful is precisely this intimacy of perspective that captures who Glass is in everyday life — it’s as close as we can get to understanding genius, the mosaic of character and personal passions and quirks and eccentricities that shapes the creative output of an exceptional artist.
See the brilliant film on DVD or, for the budget-impeded, on YouTube video of questionable quality. [UPDATE: The video is no longer available and now links to something completely different. Boo.]
Published September 14, 2009