An Evening with Crispin Glover

At 7:00 pm on Saturday, April 24, 2010 I experienced what I’m sure will be the most memorable four hours of my life. The time spent in the presence of Crispin Glover at the Indianapolis Museum of Art while he read and showed excerpts from eight of his books, showed It is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. (2007) (the second film in his It trilogy), followed by a Q&A, and concluding with a book signing, is difficult to put into words, but for your benefit, and mine, I will attempt to do just that.

Like most people of my generation, I first saw Crispin Glover in Back to the Future (1985) as George McFly, the geeky spineless father of Marty McFly. It wasn’t until several years later, when I saw Glover’s performance as Dell in David Lynch’s Wild at Heart (1990), that his name would be among the actors I would never forget. Around that time, I was also introduced to River’s Edge (1986) by Tim Hunter (who would later work with David Lynch on Twin Peaks), which features Glover as the hyped-up drug-addled Layne. From this point on, if I heard Crispin Glover was in a movie, I wanted to see it. Since then, Glover has never let me down in his many memorable performances.

About a week prior to the 24th, my friend, Jason, posted on Facebook that Crispin Glover was going to be in Indianapolis, and that anyone in the area would be wise to attend. I took his advice and promptly purchased two tickets online from the Indianapolis Museum of Art at the price of $20 per ticket. At this point, my friends, Kyle and Jason, were unsure if they would be attending.

The day of the show, my wife and I arrived around 6:00 pm (an hour before showtime). As we approached the IMA I heard someone call out my name, when I turned around I was pleasantly surprised to see Kyle, whom I’d not seen in a few years, followed by Jason, whom I’d never met face to face. We entered the museum and after trying, unsuccessfully, to persuade Kyle or Jason to touch a label on the floor that read, “Please Do Not Touch,” we presented our printout at the counter and ushered ourselves into line. It looked like 50 or more people were in line. Around 6:30 pm we were admitted to the theater to take our seats where we spent the next 30 minutes chatting about movies and such as the theater filled nearing max capacity.

Once the lights dimmed a large red dot appeared near the lower left corner of the screen, soon thereafter, Crispin Glover appeared on stage with a small book in hand. After much applause, and a few introductory words from Mr. Glover, he stated that he had forgotten something every important and wondered off-stage for a moment. This received some chuckles as I’m sure most of the audience, like myself, think of Glover as a mad genius.

Once back, the presentation began. The red dot encompassed Glover’s head and mid section. As Glover read excerpts from eight of his books, several of which have never been published, the pages were shown on-screen. Glover uses books from the 1800s to early 1900s that are in public domain and omits portions of the words by either marking them out in black or removing them from the page entirely while inserting his own artfully handwritten words and pictures found in various places. This may be difficult to visualize, but the whole experience was quite a treat for the eyes and ears.

Below are the books from which Crispin Glover read (after consulting myself, my wife, Jason, Kyle, and the almighty Internet, I could only come up with six of the eight titles).

  • Concrete Inspection
  • Rat-Catching
  • The Backward Swing
  • Round My House
  • What It is, and How It is Done
  • A New World

After the Big Slide Show, as Glover calls it, we were presented with It is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. (2007). I would like to note that the audience was quiet and respectful during the presentation. This does not happen often where I live and it made for a great film-going experience.

If you join the film making sensibilities of David Lynch, the straight forward, unapologetic attitude of John Waters when dealing with cultural taboos, and a dash of Tod Browning’s Freaks (1932), you’ll have It is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. The film is part two of Crispin Glover’s It trilogy and tells the story of Paul Baker (Steven C. Stewart), a 62-year-old man with cerebral palsy whose fetish for women with long hair drives him to murder them once they decide to cut it.

When I see Crispin Glover’s name on a project, I expect the unexpected, and I’m never disappointed. But make no mistake, this is not mere shock value, this is counterculture at it’s best, or most thought-provoking. It is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. is an exercise in counterculture and taboo, and not only by what is on-screen, but by the fact it’s written by (and stars) Steven C. Stewart (1937-2001), who had cerebral palsy.

According to Glover, Stewart’s mind, despite the cerebral palsy, functioned normally. This is clear in his ability to write a coherent screenplay, which stars himself in a murder-mystery-of-the-week style storyline, but with the naiveté of someone cut off from the outside world most of his life, as Stewart unfortunately was.

The bravery of making a film like this lies with the cast more than the crew. The willingness of Stewart to not only play the villain, but to appear in the situations as he does, and being able to have a sense of humor about it (as Crispin has assured us is the case) is not only brave, but shows how strong he felt about the role of people with disabilities in cinema. I admit that I felt uncomfortable at times during the viewing (this coming from the guy who used to make a point of showing John Water’s Pink Flamingos (1972) to nearly everyone who walked through his door), but I quickly overcame those feelings (as I imagine most other audience members did), because I realized that it was the cultural taboos that made me feel uneasy. In reality, I wasn’t uneasy about the film at all, in fact, I was glad to see these beautiful actresses performing (many of them topless or fully nude), with Stewart and bringing his vision to life. Beneath the more outrageous aspects of the story, I suspect Stewart’s script is largely autobiographical with the rage stemming from rejection from women in his real life and the forced time spent in a nursing home, the very nursing home used in the film.

With a budget of approx. $200,000, there are tell-tale signs of the budget constraints, such as the usage of classical music for the score (which was used effectively). Also, it’s easy to realize we are looking at a set, but the true value is in the ideas and questions being put in place within the sets. The acting is reminiscent of David Lynch’s films. The readings felt amateurish, as no doubt some of the actors were on screen for the first time or had little previous work, but the same style of readings came from veteran German actress, Margit Carstensen (Linda Barnes), and Crispin’s own veteran actor father, Bruce Glover (The Ex). If you’re unfamiliar with the Lynchian acting style, the simplest way to explain it is teetering on the edge of bad acting/directing and a dream world where you’re never sure what is real. It’s a style that has turned people off to Lynch in the past, but once you understand it, it works and it’s fun to watch.

Note that Crispin Glover is co-director along with David Brothers, who is best known for his work in the art department on a number of film sets, he also built the sets for this film.

Since Glover produces his own films and does not release them on video, the only way to view his films is to attend one of his showings.

After the showing of the film, there was a Q&A session (during which Glover took a moment to present the trailer for his first film, What is It? (2005)), which ran over the allotted time period, however, it was worth every minute, and if it wasn’t for my body going numb sitting in the theater seats, I could have listened to him speak all night. He only took a handful of questions, but with each question he answered more than a dozen that were sure to follow. It was interesting to see someone who is so professional and expert in his craft occasionally loose his train of thought and get tongue-tied as he rambled on about the projects he loves. Despite this, his understanding and intellect on the subjects discussed showed that he’s done his homework. It should be noted that during the Q&A Glover pointed out that former Playboy Playmate, Jami Ferrell, who acted in the film, was in the audience seeing the film for the first time. After standing up and receiving applause, Jami returned to her seat and the Q&A continued

Lastly, there was a book signing. Unfortunately we were unable to stay for this due to time constraints of our own. If Crispin comes around again (which he expressed interest in doing to show his first film, What is It?) I’ll be sure to work things out so we can stay for the signing. I was concerned he’d be a diva type, but based on his stage manners and other accounts of interaction from fans, he seems like a person I’d like to meet.

On our way out, we saw Jami Ferrell standing in the hall, I told her I enjoyed her performance in the film, she seemed genuinely humbled by the compliment, then she smiled and said thanks. It was a good end to a great night.