The unfiltered Crispin Glover comes to Barking Legs Thursday and Friday
After doing a karate kick near David Letter-man’s face, on an infamous Late Night with David Letterman appearance in 1987, some thought that actor Crispin Hellion Glover was insane.
No, he’s not insane—Michael J. Fox described him in the incident as “excitable” instead, years later to Letterman—but a portrayer of vivid, eccentric and often unforgettable characters. Those who dig even deeper (his website crispinglover.com is a good start) will find a man of intelligence and wit who often seeks to not-so-gently push audiences out of their comfort zones.
Most know him from his film roles: the underdog George McFly in Back to the Future, the shockingly loyal Layne in River’s Edge or the silent killer the Thin Man in Charlie’s Angels, but his most personal artistic role is behind the camera as director of 2005’s What Is It? and 2007’s It Is Fine! Everything Is Fine which offer their own figurative karate kicks to the face.
Demonstrating Glover’s dedication to his films, he only screens them in his presence. They are unavailable on DVD or Netflix. In a sort of modern vaudeville presentation, these events also including dramatic hour-long slideshows and meet-and-greet book signings. Additionally, he allots at least one hour for a post-film question/answer session, to address the intensely provocative and disturbing themes and images just witnessed. In advance of his two-day stint, with each day offering completely different material, at Barking Legs Theater, Glover answered some questions for The Pulse.
The Pulse: What is the most-often misunderstood thing about your own films?
Crispin Glover: The idea that there could be something negative about the intentions of making the films.
TP: What is the most interesting positive reaction you have received? Negative reaction?
CG: I am not certain that I look at the various reactions as positive or negative. The films were designed to evoke conversation and thought, so any kind of discussion emanating from the shows and films is positive.
TP: You’ve previously mentioned that using a “Hero’s Journey” story structure, like Joseph Campbell’s “Monomyth,” can bring out subconscious intentions. What have you discovered about your own intentions in the filmmaking process?
CG: It is almost like the concept of analyzing one’s self to say you would discover your own intentions. The self-analysis always continues for an artist of any kind on some level. It is still very hard to say what I have discovered. Sometimes at my shows I have had people notice thematic elements or things in the films that I had not noticed before. I am very glad when that happens, because it means the subconscious element is genuine.
TP: Some critics have deemed your work, which sometimes employs people with developmental disabilities, to be exploitative. What is exploitation to you, and how would you address these critics?
CG: The word “exploitation” can have a negative connotation, meaning that it is something which enriches the exploiter to the detriment of the exploited.
[The monetary] definition of exploitation does not fit because I have not truly monetarily profited from the films. The other definition of exploitation is about the detriment of the people. There was nothing detrimental to the actors with developmental disabilities that acted in the film. They all had guardians, and they were all met through organizations that had to do with using art as therapy for people with disabilities. My experience personally making the film was therapeutic, and I am quite certain it was for all involved.
I am very careful to make it quite clear that What Is It? is not a film about Down Syndrome but my psychological reaction to the corporate restraints that have happened in the last 20 to 30 years in filmmaking. Specifically anything that can possibly make an audience uncomfortable is necessarily excised or the film will not be corporately funded or distributed.
This is damaging to the culture because it is the very moment when an audience member sits back in their chair, looks up at the screen and thinks to their self, “Is this right what I am watching? Is this wrong what I am watching? Should I be here? Should the filmmaker have made this? What is it?”—and that is the title of the film.
It is a bad thing when questions are not being asked, because these kinds of questions are when people are having a truly educational experience. So What Is It? is a direct reaction to the contents in this culture’s media. I would like people to think for themselves.
7 p.m., $20, June 25 and 26
Barking Legs Theater
1307 Dodds Ave.