crispin glover is kind of an oddball. at least he’s made his career playing mostly oddballs. hearing him speak, he doesn’t really seem very oddball, though. he seems like a normal, artistically minded person trying to make his way in a business that can often be decidedly unartistic at times, given the accounting involved.
i can’t decide if his oddball nature is a persona or his bona fide self. i guess it doesn’t matter.
anyways, he was in town screening the first two films of his IT trilogy. i had seen the first film, what is it? previously and opted to only sit through the second film, it is fine. everything is fine!
what is it? is a film featuring a cast of characters with down syndrome. the second film, it is fine. everything is fine! features steven c stewart, who had cerebral palsy. so far as i can tell, the handicapped nature of the cast is the only real connection between the two films.
what is it? is a surrealist film that doesn’t follow a traditional narrative. there is a boy with down syndrome who is the subject. there are parallel worlds depicted that comprise different parts of his personality.
the fact of his down syndrome is never referenced, though many other characters in his apparent actual life and his inner life do live with this same condition, but others do not.
he really likes a pipe and snails, although he destroys several snails throughout the course of the film.
calling the film what is it? seems almost a gag played on the audience. like bunuel’s un chien andalou, making sense of it in a truly thematic or linear way is pointless. bunuel stated later that he and his collaborator, salvador dali, intentionally discarded anything that made ‘sense’. they put only the irrational and surreal in the scenario, and did not seek to create something of a singular theme (except perhaps, decay). in fact, the same musical cue from the pivotal moments of bunuel’s surrealist masterpiece are used in what is it?, also. but the conceit of pretension is that some people will struggle to find a theme and merit to the goings on – and this, for some people, makes something automatically of artistic worth.
even though it’s just over an hour long, what is it? takes a kitchen sink approach to trying to offend: naked women wearing animal heads and crawling about, a naked handicapped man falling off a throne, a nude shirley temple juxtaposed with nazi imagery, etc. it sounds edgy but it feels pedestrian. it’s not offensive, it’s just off putting. i didn’t find it interesting in any way save for the fact that i was seeing it. it just didn’t feel like it had anything to say and no real importance besides ‘this was made’. i’m glad it was made, but i’d never want to sit through ‘it’ again.
it is fine. everything is fine! is more like a proper film. it is from a script by it’s star, steven c stewart.
stewart lived in utah and was an early handicapped activist, along with his beloved mother. she fought to get him to be able to attend regular school. he had an extreme case of cerebral palsy.
then she died and he was put in a nursing home for 10 years. he was still a young man. he was there from ages 20-30, essentially. he was surrounded by old people on the verge of death. his mind was fine, it was just his body that failed him. he watched a lot of tv and fought to get released.
he was a fixture around salt lake city in the 70s. he would be on the news fighting for this or that handicapped issue, and could be seen around town, pushing his wheelchair backward with his feet. this is how co-director david brothers came to know of him. a documentary was made about him, which i am unable as of this writing to find.
and it turns out steven had written a script based on the hour long tv detective shows he had watched so many of. it involved himself, playing a man who meets an age appropriate woman at a party. she immediately is taken with him and can instantly understand his speech, which to some was often unintelligible.
after some courting, he asks her to marry him. she declines. he gets her to agree to another date. on that date, he kills her by choking her. he then takes up with her teenaged daughter and after a sexual encounter with the girl, he kills her, too. eventually he kills a prostitute, a big-busted girl he meets at a party and her roommate too. and on and on.
the script, and this film, don’t really go anywhere except to show the same scenario a few times over.
one particular sex scene is totally graphic, showing oral sex and penetration. i don’t know why this was necessary. it didn’t feel like it served anything.
the film ends with another murder. and that’s all we get to go on.
at the end of the film, there was a q-and-a session, as is normal for presentations of crispin glover’s films. this one seemed to go long, because a girl in the front was disturbed by all the seemingly exploitative sex that served no narrative purpose. glover, in the end, kept repeating that he liked that the film sparked so much debate. a guy at the back argued with the girl. it got tedious.
i had the same feeling i had as when i had watched what is it? i was just underwhelmed, extremely so.
i thought the idea of working from steven c stewart’s script was an interesting take. i thought that casting him was brave. and i thought the end result was childish and masturbatory.
i don’t think this film exploits women or steven c stewart – it just exploits crispin glover’s fame to get you to turn out for it. and he gets to play his best role yet – that of oddball artist who has this oh-so-tortured thing to say. after seeing him up close, i just felt like he is an art phony. or worse, he is a real artist who has nothing to say.
glover only shows the films, as far as i can tell, while he is present. he comes out before and does a performance piece where he reads from books to a slide show of stills from the books. the ‘books’ he’s done are just old books, often with neat pictures or text where he’s blacked out and added to them in some way, altering the story. it’s at first interesting but i found it quickly dull, though my friend was somewhat taken with his presentation of the book called ’round my house’.
after the book presentation (the books of course are for sale after in the lobby), he shows the film. each film is over a little over an hour long. after that he does a q-and-a session with the audience.
he seems to say a lot of the same things in these sessions. if you look him up on wikipedia or imdb, the quotes attributed there to him you will hear in person, years later. i guess there’s not much new he can say. he repeats a lot of phrases within the session, falling back on them.
as i heard him talk i got a weird itch. i wondered why he will only show his films in this way. does he not trust the audience to digest the material properly unless he’s there to handhold us? during the session he said he wouldn’t sell the films to a distributor or release them on dvd because he didn’t want to give them over to business interests. but it would seem he could sell them on dvd himself.
i think they’d become cult classics, but perhaps not for the reasons mr. glover wants.
i don’t think he trusts the audience to appreciate the films in the manner intended, and after hearing him speak, i think it’s because he quite doesn’t know what he wants to say, besides repeating some mantra about taboos and people not being able to express themselves in hollywood.
to express yourself, though, it really helps to have something to say. i don’t think crispin glover does.
below is the trailer for what is it? before you click play, know that it contains nudity:
below is the trailer for it is fine. everything is fine. same warning as above, really: