Wednesday, November 8, 2006

What Is It?


Crispin Glover's What Is It?

I was very excited to see that this show was coming to Seattle - so excited, in fact, that I purchased my tickets about 4 weeks in advance.

The first part of the show did not disappoint. Crispin read from a series of 8 altered books he put together, and he read from them in his quirky, expected, weird Crispin Glover way. It was highly entertaining, and I made a note to purchase at least one (if not a few) of the books after the movie, and to get them signed.

That idea flew out of my mind quickly once the film started.

The film is described as
"Being the adventures of a young man whose principle interests are snails, salt, a pipe, and how to get home. As tormented by an hubristic, racist inner psyche"

What Is It?, indeed. I am actually struggling to find an accurate way to describe watching it to you. I do know that I did find myself feeling very uncomfortable in more than a few ways, which is a big part of the reaction the director wanted, per his Q&A following the film.
Glover said his primary interest in making this film is that he feels the media sanitizes films too much, and nothing shocking or disturbing ever makes it to the screen anymore - in essence, people no longer make films that make others really think. I purposely did not read anything about the film before I went to see it (an old habit of mine; I don't like to be influenced by other's reviews), and while watching I wasn't exactly getting a good sense of what he was trying to accomplish. Mostly, (in-between feeling uncomfortable) I was bored and just wanted it to end.
My friend seemed to enjoy it though; he even said he thought that it had moments of brilliance. I guess I just didn't see that in the multiple takes of snails being salted, swastikas, blackface, a woman smoking a pipe, people being hit over the head with shovels and hammers, a Shirley Temple doll on a cloud overlooking pornagraphic situations, and naked women with huge breasts carrying watermelons.
I will admit that after Glover explained his reasons for making the film during the Q&A, I understood better what the purpose was, and I do think it served his purpose perfectly...I just didn't like it. And this is where I feel like I'm failing you in my review. Obviously saying "I just didn't like it" without providing an explanation for WHY is ridiculous as a reviewer. But that is my gut reaction, and I am sticking to it.
I can tell you exactly why I didn't like the Q&A portion, however. I have always found Mr. Glover adorable, but I think that during the Q&A, his mistake was not just taking some time up front to say all he wanted to say about his choices for actors (the cast is almost entirely made up of people with Down Syndrome), the screenplay, society, the media, etc. - so much so that he kept coming back to it, over and over, no matter what question was asked. It was basically like hearing an hour of the same speech, looped. There were some interesting stories, and I liked hearing them, but his ADD-approach to answering was getting on my nerves, especially after having already been in a Broadway Performance Hall seat for 2 hours prior.
By the time he was done, I was so ready to get out of there that I almost ran - not even wanting to stop to meet him, or purchase a book. I honestly did not want to get trapped into an overdrawn explanation of why he made the film...again.
I know this is just one girl's opinion, and maybe I'm just not cut out for films that are so abstract. Or, maybe the multiple snail murders were just too much for me. I am sure that if this sounds like your kind of thing, you will enjoy it. For those of you that are interested, even though it only played in Seattle this past weekend, he did say he would likely release it on DVD after he's done touring with it - but that would likely be at least another year or two.
Also, this is apparently the first in a series of 3 films he intends to make with the same overall theme. I don't think I'll be going to see the other two. :)

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