It's not often that the person opening the door to let you in to a press screening is the distinctive screen personality Crispin Glover but when it happened, Gothamist knew we were in for a unique afternoon. Best known for his creep-tastic roles in Back to the Future, Charlie's Angels and Willard, Glover will be in town to host his directorial debut, What Is It? which begins a three day run at Anthology Film Archives tonight. With his work, Glover attempts to push the envelope of cultural taboo, and in every aspect of his 2 plus hour presentation, he succeeds.
With your admission price, you'll be treated to a full Crispin Glover evening. In addition to showing his 72 minute, independently produced movie, Glover also reads aloud from his books to Power Point type slide show, answers audience questions and sign books. The slide show features pages from Glover's books, which are a mix of anatomical drawing, found photographs, disjointed narratives and hand-drawn modifications in the margins. They look and sound like flea market finds but with a patina of Glover weirdness. Plus, Glover's reading style on top of the bizarre visuals becomes almost a performance art piece.
What Is It? played at last year's Sundance Film Festival and as the first part to a proposed trilogy, it's more of an art piece than a narrative movie. A bunch of themes intermingle throughout the film, evoking a other-worldliness and a stream of consciousness, cultural unloading. Most striking of course is that the actors in the film have down syndrome--save for Glover, a few women in monkey masks and a man with cerebral palsy--and they appear in modern street clothes as well as elaborate court costumes. There are images of Shirley Temple, the swastika, and black-face mixed in with talking snails and subterranean tunnels. A strong sexual theme also runs through the film, including a sun-dappled outdoor love scene between two of the actors. All in all, there's a lot to look at, with one shock-inducing tableau after another, reminiscent of Luis Buñuel and Jack Smith. But by the end, it does feel like quite a lot of weirdness to take in.
While it would be easy to dismiss the whole presentation as trying to be odd for the sake of oddity, Glover really does seem to be working through his own boundaries and pre-occupations. Whether his metaphors really translate is really up to each audience member. Just go warned, and be ready to think, question and be a little grossed-out.
32 2nd Avenue // Nov. 10, 11, 12 // 7 pm // $18