It's not all that surprising that Philip Glass is a reclusive genius who is consumed by his work and lives in an apartment stacked to the roof with nicknacks and sheet music. It's not surprising either that his collaborators and artistic contemporaries are completely charmed by his virtuosity. This new documentary effectively brings Glass down from the stratosphere, however, by pairing these hallmarks of genius with interviews with Glass' teasing siblings and disenchanted young wife. Glass, which follows the composer from New York to Nova Scotia to Germany over the course of eighteen months, is a humanizing homage from colleague and adoring fan Scott Hicks to the composer on the occasion of his seventieth birthday.
As a result of Hicks's obvious esteem for Glass, the film feels bogged down in the artist's daily minutia. Only diehard Glass fans will remain rapt watching him make pizza or practice Chi Qong, and Hicks' decision to divide the film into twelve parts (a reference to Glass's "Music in 12 Parts") compounds the sense that very little was left in the editing room. Hicks seems intent on making the composer accessible, and succeeds to the point of overexposure. The documentary is most successful when Glass' family and friends reveal details about their lives with the musician rather than in watching those details unfold.