On Sunday 4th of May at the Picturehouse in Liverpool, I finally got to meet one of my long time role models and inspirations, Crispin Hellion Glover (starring in Rubin & Ed, Willard, the new remake of Alice in Wonderland, Charlie's Angels etc.). The evening consisted of a screening of Everything is Fine, a run through of Crispin’s Big Slide Show plus a Q&A session and book signing. The whole event lasted in total, about four hours.
The Big Slide Show was a medley of most of Crispin’s written works. It was very disjointed, surrealistic, and seesawing between hysterical and unsettling. I found sections of Oak Mot to be quite unnerving, particularly with the section emphasising on the characters' hands. Crispin's delivery of the slide show I have to commend as it moved everyone to laughter on several occasions, and produced quite a range of emotions. Concrete Inspection was very funny, as was It's an Egg Farm. Another part I found to be excellently delivered was the book (sadly I can't remember the name) regarding a protagonist going to be tried at court after feeding a young boy to a snake.
Crispin’s stories seem to be derived from pre existing novels/instruction manuals. He looks to have blocked out sections of writing to deconstruct/create something entirely new, and drawn over macabre illustrations throughout blocks of text. Someone in the audience made a comparative to Winnie the Pooh with Oak Mot, but I’ve yet to see what the similarities are yet.
Everything is Fine wasn’t particularly my cup of tea, and was far more pornographically explicit than Crispin’s other works that I’ve seen. In hindsight, I think I would have much preferred seeing What is it? given it seemed to have far more focus on artistic elements, as opposed to extensive gratuitous shots of female anatomy. I’m sure there’s some sort of legal implication with showing direct penetration in film? Anyway, in short Everything Is Fine was quite uncomfortable viewing and probably wasn’t the most suitable or relevant way to address society’s lack of questioning in terms of what is taboo, and how it should make us feel.
The Q&A session was helpful in terms of answering my only lingering question, why subtitles weren’t used despite the protagonist being difficult to understand. That was primarily as it would detract away from the notion of the film being a fantasy, and Paul's desire to be easily understood. Crispin went into a lot of dialogue about the background of the film, about the actor Steve who played the protagonist Paul and how he had died shortly after completion of filming. In terms of the film, I personally didn’t really take much from it other than thinking it could have been more substantial story wise. The film, however, was written by Steve, and was in essence a fantasy of his. So I don't particularly attribute this work to Crispin's own personal creativity, or in a negative way. Although it does reflect his more unusual interests blending both controversial imagery and mental/physical disabilities.
I did manage to ask Crispin about who his inspirations were when he was playing the character Rubin Farr. Which, I seem to remember him focusing on the actual look of Rubin which he conceptualised himself, and it sounded to be for another project at the same time he was doing Back to the Future - but it never panned out? And it then became the character of Rubin Farr. However, since I didn’t take down notes I can’t give a solid statement about this.
Crispin himself was disarmingly calm and friendly in person, seemed very interested in his fans which I really admire, and it was amazing to meet him. Despite the feature film not really appealing to my… constitution, I remain a big fan of his writings, aesthetics and art, and his quirkier (non pornographic) films. I managed to buy Oak Mot and got it signed, so I will get around to reviewing that individually at some point.
Reviewed by Abigail Lewis.