When I started researching this piece, I went to Philip Glass’s website. It says “Welcome”. Instead of saying “Contact Us”, it says “Contact Me”. I like a website that welcomes the public, and (as we know his emails MUST be screened), at least gives us the fantasy we can contact the great man personally. This is truly a well-rounded portrait of a man who is a contradiction in terms, having a friendly website while doing some of the most lonely work possible, composing music. Yet having managed to hone his concentration on his art to such an extent he was actually working on 3-4 scores AT THE SAME TIME while this was being filmed. Did I mention he was 70?!! And has 2 children under 5?! (Thus putting him in the same category as Tony Randall and Anthony Quinn!) Scott Hicks, (who directed Geoffrey Rush to an Oscar in Shine, and therefore knows a coupla things about geniuses and music), really manages to convey all of Philip’s 12 notes, not only covering his professional life but his unusual spiritual and (sometimes turbulent) personal life as well. (One of the most poignant comments is made by his current wife, “Genius is hard on a relationship.”) However because our subject is Philip Glass, it fascinates with intelligence, wit and insight every note of the way.
He has collaborated with such masters as Martin Scorsese (Kundun), Ravi Shankar, Woody Allen, and Errol Morris (who gives my favorite quote in the film, “he does existential dread better than anyone”–and he should know, they started out working together on Errol’s Thin Blue Line, a film that not only saved a man’s life, but was selected in 2001 to be preserved by the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. Drama!)
Of course his collaboration with legendary avant-garde director (there is just not an adequate phrase to describe him) Robert Wilson resulted in changing the face of American theater. Hell, theater WORLD-WIDE! (There just happens to be a documentary out on him also, called Absolute Wilson, that I would heartily recommend.)
I couldn’t help, as I was previewing NEXT week’s film, Operation Filmmaker (also excellent!) (and seriously twisted!), thinking what a contrast the subject of that film is to Philip Glass, whose work ethic is “get up and write all day.” (You’ll just have to compare the two and find out what YOU think!)