Crispin Glover's big talking vaudeville

Multi-talented eccentric Crispin Glover wants to show you his taboo-filled film--and then talk to you about it

There's a line in Wayne's World 2: Kim Basinger's character says to Dana Carvey's Garth Algar, "I just want to climb into that big ol' brain of yours and walk around."

A number of people probably feel the same way about Crispin Glover. The oddball actor/artist/author/director/musician/producer is one of Hollywood's kookiest outsiders. (Remember the lawsuit against Robert Zemeckis over the Back to the Future sequels, and his bizarre appearance on Letterman in 1987?) We're not talking about a regular Hollywood guy here.

The eccentric and multi-talented Glover will be in town next Tuesday and Wednesday to promote Crispin Hellion Glover's Big Slide Show. The show, sponsored by CKDU, will feature an hour-long performance by Glover---during which he'll dramatically narrate his art books alongside visuals and drawings---then a screening of Glover's movie What Is It?, the first in a trilogy of films from Glover's production company, Volcanic Eruptions.

Glover chooses to screen his films personally, instead of going through the normal distribution model of using movie theatres, because he wants to emphasize the interactive element of entertainment. Consider it a throwback to the days of vaudeville. "Multiplexes have become places for people to get out of the house, but there isn't that thoughtful element that a lot of people have been looking for," says Glover. "I'm finding that people like that vaudeville element. They like being part of a discussion and bring up genuine things that should be discussed." This variety-show approach allows Glover to directly interact with his audience.

What Is It? has certainly generated its share of discussion. The film, which features disturbing and grotesque imagery, has received both acclaim and criticism. One critic described it as "Fellini on psychedelics---wildly creative but completely twisted." Actors with Down syndrome make up the majority of its cast. This alone might be enough to turn a few heads, but Glover has his own take on the real objection to (and perhaps the strength of) using such a cast. "What I should emphasize is the taboo element; are playing characters that do not have Down syndrome. For whatever reason, this can make people feel uncomfortable."

Glover is careful to be vague when discussing the symbolism in his films, preferring to leave interpretation up to the viewers themselves. "There are reasons why certain things are taboo... that make me uncomfortable that seem perfectly normal in other cultures. Taboos have a time and a geographical barrier...a lot of it is subjective." It is that subjectivity that provides fodder for the Q&A session afterwards, which, Glover says, is his favourite part of the show.

Sometimes the questioning is aggressive; other times it's not so heated. The aggression is not necessarily directed at Glover himself, says the director. He emphasizes that it is important to offer a forum to discuss elements of the film that some viewers may find disconcerting. The discussion itself is more important than the film, because it creates a conversation and forces people to examine why they feel uncomfortable.

But taboo-breaking isn't free. "People will critique if one gets into taboo territory," says Glover. "That is the problem with corporate funding." Glover says anything that is considered taboo or controversial will not get corporate funding or attention in mainstream media. Because of this, Glover produces his own films, using money he earns from acting to fund more personal projects.

What Is It? took more than a decade to finish, and Glover did most of the work on it himself---including editing and booking screenings. Glover says the film still has as much impact today as it did when it began production. "Taboo is a deep thing. The images and thoughts are juxtaposed in such a way that not even one of the taboo elements has been changed. The mood of an audience can change...but taboo is deep."

So, Crispin Hellion Glover's Big Slide Show might provide a brief sojourn into Glover's brain, but keep in mind what the film says about your own perceptions, too.

For more information, check out

Crispin Hellion Glover's Big Slide Show, Tuesday, July 29 and Wednesday, July 30 at the Ondaatje Theatre in the McCain Arts and Social Sciences building, 6135 University, 7pm, $20, 494-6479.

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