Saturday, February 2, 2013
WHAT IS IT? (2005) movie review
What Is It? (2005) d. Glover, Crispin Hellion(USA)
Actor and professional oddball Crispin Glover weaves a hallucinatory spell in his directing debut, utilizing a cast composed primarily of performers with Downs Syndrome, with support by performance artist/writer Adam Parfrey, cerebral palsy sufferer Steven C. Stewart, Glover himself and…snails. Lots and lots of snails, many of which meet their untimely demises via salt shakers or clenched fist in extreme close-up, providing some of the most unexpectedly troubling images I’ve seen (and considering my film genre of choice
I’ve seen a lot).
Glover, who travels around with his films and does not allow them to be screened without being personally present, is to be applauded for his fearlessness in challenging his audiences to confront disturbing material – be it in the form of the aforementioned gastropods, swastikas on Shirley Temple memorabilia, nude ape-masked women or blackfaced minstrels – and inquire exactly what offends our sensibilities and why.
Heavily influenced by David Lynch (who, Glover revealed in a Q&A session, served as an uncredited executive producer), there is an undeniably nightmarish and flamboyantly imaginative quality that pervades the film, and it manages to stir something deep within every viewer. Bizarre as it might sound, the emotions provoked when Fairuza Balk voices the anguished screams of a heartbroken snail are not easily dismissed nor denied.
This is one of the purest examples of ballsy, challenging and thrilling independent cinema I’ve seen, one that I urge all open-minded cinephiles who come within viewing distance of Glover’s arc to check out.