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24.8.11

WRITTEN REVIEW: It is Fine! Everything is Fine

By FOREST TAYLOR
Most people remember Crispin Glover merely as George McFly. Some slasher movie fans might remember him as the nerd who did the goofy dance in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. I think when all is said and done, I’ll remember Crispin Hellion Glover as the director of three of the most bizarre, incomprehensible and frankly, interesting experimental films I think I’ll ever see.

Glover’s “It" trilogy is something that needs to be seen to be believed. The show begins with Glover’s performance piece including him reading various excerpts from his novels like Oak Mot and Rat Catching. All of his books feature a first-person narrator rambling on about various subjects with little rhyme or reason. They are also illustrated with various images and pictures cut out and glued to the pages. I’m not sure how these illustrations contribute to the “story” in any way, and maybe nobody but Glover really knows for sure.

After the readings are done (which he claims are vital to understanding the films) the movie begins. The first film, What is It? is an ugly, abrasive and just downright unpleasant experience. Glover states that it intended to be a hero’s journey and I can definitely see that. However, if you’re looking for any kind of traditional narrative, you’ve come to the wrong movie. The film is really an attempt to transcend traditional narrative techniques and instead let the visuals carry the plot, similar to E. Elias Merhige’s Begotten or David Lynch’s Inland Empire. Although “What is It?” is an interesting experiment, I felt that it dragged on a little too much and all the weirdness didn’t really pay off in the end. I suppose I should also point out that people with Down’s syndrome play all of the main characters and this generated a lot of controversy although I really don’t understand why. Glover mentions in the Q&A that all the Down’s syndrome actors had their guardians with them at all times, so no one was being exploited.


That’s really all I have to say about “What is It?”. It’s not terrible but I wasn’t blown away by it, and you should check it out if you want to see some things that you’ll never see in any other movie: like a guy with cerebral palsy getting a hand-job from a porn star in a gorilla mask, a guy in blackface who dreams of being Michael Jackson injecting snail slime into his face, a painting of Shirley Temple wearing nothing but an SS cap and a swastika armband, and a snail with the voice of Fairuza Balk. What does it all mean? Who knows, and I think that’s kind of the point.

The next movie in the trilogy, It is Fine. Everything is Fine! has a much different feel to it and I think is far and away the superior film. This film was a labor of love by Steven C. Stewart (the guy with cerebral palsy from the first film) who spent thirty years trying to get the film made. Basically, Stewart wrote the script based on his own experiences living in a home for disabled individuals. He was also fed up with movies always portraying disabled people as sympathetic or even saintly, so he wrote a story that presented a disabled person as a deranged serial killer. It really is a breath of fresh air to all of Hollywood’s cloying, sentimental dealings with physical disability. Think about it: when was the last time since Mr. Potter in “It’s a Wonderful Life” has a guy in a wheelchair ever been portrayed as a bastard?


The film is about a man with cerebral palsy (played by Stewart) who suddenly finds himself attracting more women than Casanova. He romances these women, proceeds to have lots of raunchy sex with them … and then murders them. That’s pretty much the whole plot but it’s incredibly fascinating because we’ve never really seen something like this before. On one hand, you can’t help but feel sorry for the guy because of his affliction, but on the other the guy is psychotic! I also love the way the film was shot. The sets are all stripped down and contain only the most basic scenery, the lights fade in and out as characters enter and exit scenes and aside from the central characters, there are almost no other people in the film. It all creates a very eerie, dream-like atmosphere and it almost looks like a stage play. The sex scenes, on the other hand are very raw and realistic with at least one instance of unsimulated sex being performed on camera. In fact, Glover states that the sex scenes had to be toned down considerably for the film. He says that if they had filmed the sex the way it was described in the script the film basically would’ve been a porno.


I don’t want to give too much of the ending away because I think it might spoil the film’s atmosphere, but I will say that by the end you get the feeling that most of what happened occurred only inside the protagonist’s mind. By the end it almost becomes a kind of inverted Alice in Wonderland where the main character is whisked away to a world where he has impossible sex appeal, he is perfectly understood (Stewart’s condition makes it difficult for him to speak) and he can get away with any crime he wants. But like everything, all good dreams eventually come to an end and then we are back in crushing, depressing reality.

Glover’s next film in the trilogy It is Mine! has not yet been made, but he says it’ll be more in the style of What is It?. So when all is said and done, what will be said of the It trilogy? Is it a deconstruction of film as a storytelling medium, a way of pointing a mirror at the audience to expose their own personal taboos and prejudices or is it all just a performance act and Glover is merely pointing out the ridiculousness of supposed “art films”? Whatever it is, I will be eternally grateful to Mr. Glover for bringing Mr. Stewart’s challenging and provocative vision to life after thirty long years. Sadly, Steven C. Stewart died shortly after completing It is Fine. Everything is Fine!, but I think his work will be remembered in the decades to come as one of the masterworks of experimental film.

Learn more about Crispin Glover and his films at crispinglover.com/

IT IS FINE! EVERYTHING IS FINE

★ ★ ★ ★

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