Recap: Crispin Glover Live At The Alamo

April reports from the front lines of Crispin Glover’s weird-ass visit to the Alamo Drafthouse.

Glover’s kept himself busy traveling the globe since 2005 promoting two parts of the proposed “It” trilogy. And if you’ve seen It Is Fine! Everything Is Fine or What Is It?, it’s because you’ve done him a solid by attending performances in a town ballsy enough to screen such uncustomary, provocative cinema. Anyhow, he visited Austin’s own Alamo Drafthouse last week on the Texas leg of the tour, and I couldn’t resist swooping in to not only quench my own curiosity, but do my damnedest to loosen the lid on that jar for you as well.

The initial evening began as they typically do at the Drafthouse, in line at least an hour early with the other mixed nuts making small talk to pass the time. Naturally, I parked myself behind a chummy gentleman with a pony tail donning a Jodorowsky (in Judas Priest font) t-shirt. It wasn’t that but the ardency in our voices as we spoke of our love of Abba that might surprise someone - much to the chagrin of my friend/colleague behind me.

We filed into the theater shortly thereafter for the opening performance known as Crispin Hellion Glover’s Big Slideshow. Voltaic energy filled the room when he entered, unescorted, and plugged his head into a slight, scarlet spotlight at the far corner of the stage. Comprised of dissected then refashioned, visually and narratively, vintage books from the 1800s, images projected onto the screen behind him while accompanied by a live reading wove altogether new tales.

For example, Concrete Inspection, once an actual manual of information for inspectors of concrete became a story told of the narrator’s mother who has lost something and finds it. Others on the more obtuse end of the spectrum like, The Land of Sunshine, (not the Faith No More track) were hollered at the audience in German while sweat flew from his brow in the manner of a garden mister. What we lacked in understanding was met with nervous tittering as if to say, “We’re not sure what in the Samhain is going on up there, but we’re thoroughly entertained!” Predictably the general consensus throughout both evenings.

Here’s a precise list (quotes and information missing reflective of their ability to stupefy):
Concrete Inspection
Backward Swing - A romance between Milly and Dexter. “A thing may seem sweet as syrup, but oh how it burns.”
The Land of Sunshine
The Betrothed
Oak Mot
An Egg Farm - Otherwise known as a delight in semantic satiation.
Round My House - “Premenstrual lobotomy.”, “Anorexic Hermaphrodite.” and “My penis fell off.”
What It Is and How It Is Done

An hour later we had a better lay of the uncharted land and the second in the “It” trilogy, It Is Fine! Everything Is Fine. began. A forward by the severely stricken with cerebral palsy screenwriter and lead in the feature, Steven C. Stewart, elucidates, “This movie is not really about sex or even a cereal killer. No. This movie tends to look deep inside the heart and mind of a severally handicapped young man.” [sic] Part semi-autobiographical and psycho-sexual, it’s certainly not your typical tale of misogynistic lustmord.

We’re introduced to Steven in a grim portrait of his every day life in the very nursing facility in which he was confined (he has since passed away). Lying helplessly on the floor, the clock ticks as he awaits assistance. It’s the trip back to his chair in the arms of an orderly that takes us on a journey inward, and we enter a 1970s style made for television thriller world. Naive perspective to be expected.

Steven becomes Paul, a dapper and always verbally intelligible ladies man version of himself. At a party his gaze is set upon Fassbinder darling, Margit Carstensen, as Linda Barnes. It’s her “I just want to be friends” in lieu of an “I do” that acts as the emotional fulcrum for the story. Rejection was more than he could stand, and he henceforth has it out (oh, so literally) for ladies with long hair. They’re all over him, but mostly… under him.

His desire was to express that handicapped people are not always innocent minded, and when he uses the larynx of a flaxen-haired dame as a wheelchair speed bump we receive this beacon.

There was much more to be absorbed beyond the surface level lure of a severely handicapped man penetrating a woman (close-up) a modest three rows away from the big screen. In any given moment of disquietude, you can find psyche solace in the fact that Mr. Stewart was no doubt about it having the time of his life. As Glover described later in the Q&A, a smothered in wig glue in route to the set Steven even said so himself. Later with a collapsed lung, he remained on life support until the project came to fruition and left his portion of earnings to an unnamed actress from the film with whom he fell in love.

Switching gears, the second evening opened with a slightly more rehearsed, hardly altered version of Crispin Hellion Glover’s Big Slideshow. It’s worth noting for anyone who owned his early nineties album, The Big Problem?... that Studies In Ratcatching was added to this particular performance.

Up next was a screening of his first feature length, What Is It?. Activate 72 minutes of bewilderment and never coming close to answering that question. For those not privy, its initial and most striking aspect is that the cast is almost entirely made up of actors with Down syndrome, but they’re not playing characters with Down syndrome. And what I gathered will most likely sound as if I’m rehashing a berserk, fever induced dream I had after seeing It Is Fine! the night before.

In it a young man struggles to make his way home while on the way haunted by his racist inner psyche and tormented by the driest of humping in the graveyard. Anthropomorphizing and assaulting (yes, with salt) escargot also seemed to be a recurring metaphor. Fairuza Balk even lends one a voice and earsplitting scream that we hear throughout. In one word, ouch.

Steven C. Stewart and Glover depict the Dueling Demi-Gods of the Inner Sanctum where Stewart is mostly lying in a fetal position, enveloped by a giant clam shell where a topless woman in a monkey mask has sprung forth from a hole in the ground to masturbate him while hugging a watermelon. See also: blackface, swastikas, and Shirley Temple. See also also: nightmares on the horizon for me regarding my German/Mormon background. Mormons love Shirley Temple.

At times the narrative feels suspiciously obfuscated, like a Russian nesting doll glued shut. In other words, I don’t really have a goddamn clue what I was watching. However, I took the opportunity to bask in amusement rather than risk leaking copious amounts of cerebrospinal fluid out of my ear holes and onto my seatmate in the process of trying to figure it all out.

Present for both, the closing Q&A sessions each evening were something else echoing a performance piece entirely. Honestly, it was more of an A than a Q, but I believe this to be in his best interest as he bravely conducts them himself. Those in the shrunken Charles Manson t-shirts mistaking him for a cult leader oft times took the opportunity to declare to him (and the entire audience) their love.

His preferred method is to hopefully answer any lingering queries with verboseness and save time by doing so. For that reason, I could fill another column with covered ground. I’m not sure we saved any time. A few key points were driven home: 1. An indubitable earnestness and devotion toward changing the “corporately funded and distributed” film landscape. 2. A message not to offend audiences, but to prevent them from being offended by unimportant taboos. 3. Tim League should take over the world.

Fortunately, I had the chance to sit and chat with him a bit the last evening and he made sure to reiterate the last, especially when I told him that I wrote for BAD. While clearly battling extreme shyness, he was talkative and unexpectedly interested to glean feedback from me and my friend/colleague. Specifically, most interested to know what we did and didn’t savor regarding each show. I took the opportunity to share, in a positively recollected nutshell, what I’ve said to you in so many words here and added that the experience in its entirety, however challenging the level, was certainly one worth having.

Conclusively, I greatly recommended is a visit to crispinglover.com for tour dates and tickets.

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