Crispin Glover has been making his film What Is It? for 10 years. Sure, in the meantime, he's done a lot of other stuff: Following his role as George McFly in the first Back to the Future, the infamously eccentric Glover's shown up in everything from Rubin and Ed to Charlie's Angels. But What Is It? is the first installment in a trilogy written, directed, and edited by Glover, and its cast includes Steven C. Stewart, a man suffering from cerebral palsy, several unknown actors with Down syndrome, and a couple of known porn actresses.
In a recent interview with the Mercury, Glover described the cast as "people outside the mainstream of society." What Is It? was made "to ask questions that are not necessarily addressed by the film itself," Glover says. And there's a reason everything here sounds so weird—according to Glover, "Areas of discomfort can be those areas where things are learned."
Indeed, the images in Glover's film are both absurd and compelling: A naked woman in a monkey mask masturbates Stewart's bent figure while he reclines naked on a large sea shell. The Down syndrome actors bludgeon each other, and then dump salt on screaming snails (snails that are, of course, voiced by Fairuza Balk). Coupled with an eerie soundtrack featuring music from Wagner and Charles Manson, What Is It? simultaneously evokes tension, irony, and id.
Glover will attend each screening at the Clinton St. Theater this weekend, where he'll also be conducting an hour-long spoken word performance entitled "Crispin Hellion Glover's Big Slide Show," participating in post-screening Q&As, as well as signing books. Consider it all part of Glover's tireless crusade to pose unanswerable questions through his inscrutable imagery and disdain for the status quo.
For audio from the Mercury's interview with Glover, hit portlandmercury.com/podcasts.