The title of this offbeat Canadian feature, which echoes Beethoven's "Thirty Two Variations in C Minor" (one of which is heard in the film), reflects the style and structure employed by director Francois Girard in his treatment of the reclusive concert pianist and recording artist Glenn
Gould (Colm Feore). Between intertitles borrowed from the lexicon of classical music (the Prelude, the Fugue, the Theme and Variations), Girard weaves together a series of impressions, interviews, and dramatizations in an attempt to find cinematic correlatives for musical forms. The result is less
a biopic than a meditation on creativity, isolation, and the nature of communication in a technological age.
After his retirement from the concert stage, Gould became a cult figure in classical music, with all that that implies; his work is still subjected to probing critical analysis, revisionist interpretations, and not a few vitriolic attacks. It is probably impossible to separate Gould's personal
history from the continuing reassessment of his performing career, and Girard and co-writer Don McKellar nimbly sidestep the pitfalls of critical debate by narrowing their focus to specific moments and impressions. Without attempting a sweeping, comprehensive summation of Gould-the-man or
Gould-the-performer, Girard and McKellar still manage to suggest greater depths of artistry and personality than the conventions of traditional film biography might allow.
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