Crispin Glover’s What Is It?

Crispin Glover laughing nervously at offensive magnets
Crispin wears his “What is it?” face while reluctantly accepting a set of my Final Justice Jesus Dressup magnets as he signs his “What Is It?” poster for me.

Last night I went to see Crispin Glover’s “What Is It?”” along with a poetry reading from his eight books and Q&A with the artist himself. I really am a big fan of his. Have been since I was a teen. I’d seen this show before about 9 years ago when I lived in Chicago. It’s gotten a lot better since. The movie’s different, and he has a lot more to say now about everything.

I definitely feel like I’ve outgrown him a bit. Hard to explain, but I want to try. His movie was very striking, as most anything Crispin has ever done is. But I found myself desiring a clearer story line. It was VERY random, with tons of obscure symbolism, and what seemed to be random scenes shot throughout the course of several years put together. And I am at the point as an artist where it’s so important for the message in my art to be clearly stated.

I understand the concept of leaving the definition of the art up to each individual person, but I am far more keen on order and clear story-telling, at least when is comes to story-telling mediums (writing, comics, movies, etc). To me this is the very point of these mediums.

Afterwards, during Q&A, he did answer some of the questions the film had left me with 9 years ago. One of the answers being the statement against corporately funded films and how this standard in American films has established a long list of taboo subjects the public is being taught to fear. I happen to agree with this 100%, but interestingly enough I also noted that despite the fact that his movie featured probably every single taboo subject, from blackface Minstrels, Downs Syndrome/crippled actors, Swastikas, Shirley Temple erotica, porn, racism (and any combination of each imaginable), even snail-salting, the one thing he did not feature in “What Is It?” was blasphemy. There were no sac religious images throughout the entire piece. This of course led me to be extremely curious as to what Crispin’s (one of my heros since high school) beliefs were.

While he was taking questions he seemed a little like he was getting tired of answering the same questions again and again. He even said “I only have time for a couple more questions. Come on, be aggressive! Ask me anything!” So I shouted out: “What religion are you?”

He replied that he wasn’t raised with any religious beliefs, but considered himself spiritual, and believed that spirituality was an important thing for people to hold onto.

Now, I’m not sure how well you know me, but this particular response to that question is a huge pet peeve of mine, especially when dealing with an artist whose message is one of toppling taboos. And the lack of any religious references in such a film, I see it as basically the artist shielding his eyes from a topic he doesn’t want to address. Either that or, God forbid, he purposely left the subject out because he actually believes it is the only topic that should be off the table. His answer to my question led me to go with the later. I’d be very interested to know how he’d respond to this. I suppose I’ll have to wait another 10 years for the next show to find out.

He did entertain me for what ended up being around 4 hours of show, and I gave him a set of Final Justice Jesus magnets (which he thanked me for, but refused to hold up. He said he didn’t like to hold products in photos, and I understand that). I bought one of his posters of a Nazi-dominatrix Shirley Temple holding a whip up her cunt while standing in front of a red Nazi Flag with a huge Swastika on it. I figured I could find the CD another day, but this was my one chance to get the poster.

He also said that he feels there are only three movies he’s done that he really loves: River’s Edge, What Is It?, and The Orkly Kid (which I have never even heard of). I need to see that one right away.

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