|Crispin Glover talking after the film.|
When people described the film to me they inevitably mentioned the snails. And the watermelons not to mention occasionally a bigger than expected seashell. So you can sort of see why I wasn't expecting an abundance of traditional story and/or sense-making. To that extent the film didn't disappoint but by the end I was appreciative in some small ways. In part because it certainly engaged my attention more than the pre-film book reading - which was somewhat but not totally different than the one Glover did on Friday night.
I'm not even going to attempt to explain the film. I don't really get it - beyond that it's an attempt to throw a large number of disturbing topics and/or images at the viewer in a neutral manner. Presumably to show what a film that addresses "taboo" topics neutrally will make you feel like. I use the term "taboo" literally because Glover tends to use it in describing the film. And given how clearly this is his vehicle I feel it's only fair to speak when reasonable in the terminology he uses to describe his intent.
After It is Fine! Everything is Fine there was some discussion by Mr. Glover that he didn't really personally get why some people were upset with the murder of women in that film. In this case though he pre-emptively admitted to understanding why most people are uncomfortable with the number of snails harmed in the making of the film (salt is the preferred method of dispatch with the occasional razor blade thrown in to keep it interesting). He made a very good point (though not directly - there aren't a lot of direct to the issue points made in his Q&A's - but that's another story) that the snails in What is It? are the one set of characters that people are able to connect with. And given the choices that's certainly true. Because the full set of options of things to connect with include
- a group of undeveloped characters played by actors with Down's Syndrome. Who with the exception of one brief moment of kissing each other tend to hit each other over the head, chase things around and/or abuse snails.
- The writer/lead of It is Fine! Everything is Fine who for most of the film lies naked in a giant clamshell while nude greasy women with animal masks vigorously masturbate him. Which for the majority of viewers is even less fun to watch than it sounds.
- Glover himself playing some underworld being with a penchant for swastika laden art and incredibly racist rockabilly music
- The snails - who I must say are beautifully photographed. With a care, deliberation and emotionally resonance not afforded to anyone/anything else in the film.
It's not really a fun film to watch - perhaps more entertaining to debrief about it afterward. This sort of experimental thing isn't really my scene. I don't really know if Glover made the point he was trying to make. At first I didn't really think any point was made - but somehow my view started to shift ever so slightly once he made the point about everyone felt empathy for the snails, and little else onscreen. So, an experience I suppose - and one I'm pretty sure I'll be OK not having again. Because at the end of the day I don't really know where things were intended to go - and I'm man enough to admit my mind may be small enough never to fully grok it. Or it could just be silly - that opinion is definitely out there as well.
Post film there was again an extensive Q&A. I was getting sleepy as it was a work night and did excuse myself before the end of it. Running into friends outside we ended up speaking for another 30 minutes - during which the theater remained full. So best I can tell Mr. Glover was again free and generous with his time - and a throughout was a passionate speaker on his work. The aforementioned friend who made me later to bed remarked how incredible the Q&A would have been had it utilized a skilled interviewer who could help move Crispin from topic to topic in an expeditious manner. I can't help but agree that would truly have been fascinating. Sadly the tour seems very much a one person act but perhaps someday.... it really would likely greatly improve the experience.