I really like Philip Glass. I really like Philip Glass. I really like Philip Glass. I really like Philip Glass. I really like Philip Glass. I really like Philip Glass.

Okay, now that the perfunctory Philip Glass joke is out of the way out of the way out of the way out of the way out of the way, I’ll venture into a bit why I really enjoyed Australian director Scott Hicksdocumentary in twelve parts about the life and work of the extraordinary composer.

To be brief, Glass was a musical talent starting early on in his career, including his time at University of Chicago and Julliard. In the 1960s, he collaborated with Ravi Shankar, Chuck Close, and other artistic luminaries in and around New York City with experimental music. His monotonous style is best described by filmmaker (and frequent Glass collaborator) Errol Morris as “existential dread,” but intrinsic in so many of Glass’ pieces is the hope of a break in the clouds, a happy end on the horizon.

The twelve parts cover all aspects of Glass’ life, including his family, his youth, his summer home, his Taoist/Buddhist mash-up faith, his opera, his symphony, his film work.

Naturally, it’s this last part that appealed the most to me. As pretty much most of you all know by now, I really like movie scores, so much to the extent that I look forward to riding AirTran (tiny seats and all) just so I can listen to XM Radio’s Cinemagic station.

Some of my favorite movie scores are Phil Glass originals, including Morris’ The Fog of War and The Illusionist. Glass also collaborated on the score for The Truman Show, one of my favorite movies ever. And while I would have liked to have learned more about his process in composing, it was enriching to hear from Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, and Morris about their experiences with Glass.

Equally entertaining where the scenes with Glass’ wife Holly and Close, whose friendship with Glass has lasted more than 40 years. Hicks is best known for his 1996 film Shine, but his excellent camera work and story-telling rise to the level of matching Glass’ expertise in composition. In some of the doc’s most intimate moments, Hicks knows best not to cut away or draw back, but to stay focused on the subject. And occurrences that could be deemed as fodder for a “blooper” reel are included in the film, underlining Glass’ unassuming attitude toward his talent and fame.

The sequence where Glass prepares the assorted ingredients for homemade pizza is masterful. Hicks frames the metaphor of Glass’ style with the different steps in writing a musical composition, and does so without bluntly stating the comparison.

While catching the screening at the National Gallery of Art (highly recommended theater), I kept asking myself….when is this going to end? But in an internal monologue, I couldn’t find anything that I would cut, and then I realized that my antsy impatience wasn’t because of any lag in Hick’s documentary, but it’s that “existential dread.” Glass’ music is in an unending search of finality. So when the film is fully scored with excerpts of Glass works, without an overarching plot, it was easy to get overly anxious – which only underscored the effectiveness of his music.

Lastly, I hope all of this isn’t moot. Even though the film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last September, IMDB says the documentary had its first U.S. screening in New York in April. So John…does that mean we could see it on the short list this winter? Or has its window for being nominated already passed by? I should hope not…because Hicks deserves a nomination for this brilliant portrait.

Trailer is below:

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