Hicks has delivered an intimate, illuminating glimpse into the life of one of America\'s most fascinating artists. The film\'s present-day footage follows Glass as he works on his Eighth Symphony and also prepares to present the operatic spectacle BARBARIANS AT THE GATE. But his current duties don\'t stop there. He\'s also busy scoring Woody Allen\'s CASSANDRA\'S DREAM in addition to several more films. Glass is an obsessive workaholic who takes his work with him even when he goes on vacation (to the disappointment of his third wife, Holly, who expresses her feelings in one of the film\'s most unexpectedly revealing moments). Meanwhile, Hicks visits close friends and family members, who recount Glass\'s life story with clarity and humor. But the film really belongs to Glass himself, whose pragmatic approach to creation is daunting and inspiring. 

Through a Glass, darkly.

Before I watched this docu on Philip Glass, I knew precious little about the bloke, beyond the fact that he composed the scores for an eclectic bunch of films including Notes on a Scandal, The Illusionist, The Hours and, most famously, Koyaanisqatsi.

Now, I’m not that much wiser. Director Scott Hicks allows Glass to speak at length about his music, his obsessive working schedule and his collaborators, but rarely gets under the skin of his subject. Presumably Glass declared off limits some sensitive subjects, eg, his previous marriages, while letting his sister, brother, adult son Zack and current wife Holly Critchlow talk about such personal matters. 'I have so few secrets," he says ingenuously.

We do learn he’s messy; that he was estranged from his father when his dad died in a car crash; his lost his first wife Candy to liver cancer; and he’s a Buddhist, although he dislikes labeling his beliefs. After graduating from Juilliard, he formed his own ensemble in the 1970s, playing in lofts, art galleries and parks, while working day-jobs as a plumber and cab driver. Glass is shown with collaborators Woody Allen (Cassandra’s Dream), Martin Scorsese (Kundun), Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line) and Ravi Shankar, but none of these exchanges is especially illuminating. Among the performances, there are some exciting scenes from the world premiere in Germany of his opera Waiting for the Barbarians and of his work Orion at the 2005 Melbourne International Arts Festival.

There’s extensive footage of the composer, Holly, their two young boys and sundry friends at their holiday home in Nova Scotia, but we see more of Glass making pizzas than opening up about his life. It’s left to his sister to reveal his predilection to marry women who are 'half his age plus seven years," while Zack says his father spent many years grieving after Candy died, until he met Holly. In the doc’s most emotional moments, Holly laments it isn’t easy to live with her work-obsessed husband and that while they love each other, she admits, 'We want different things out of our lives." Abundant extras include bonus performances and interviews and the director’s commentary.



1 hour 59 min
Wed, 05/20/2009 - 11