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Crispin Glover Is Not Obsessed with Breasts, Snails, or Down Syndrome.

Crispin Glover’s four-night run at Northwest Film Forum was as much a meditation on celebrity and performance as a screening of his experimental films. Monday’s final night occurred in three parts: a slideshow of altered books and images narrated by Glover, a screening of his feature film What Is It, and a seemingly interminable question and answer session. Each banked on Glover’s embrace of the absurd.

What is It is Glover’s underground opus, finished in 2004 as part of an anticipated trilogy. The film explores its protaganist’s inner and outer worlds via confrontational images: a man in blackface, a beswastika’ed Shirley Temple, snail salting, graphic sex among the mentally impaired. It was difficult to pull any semblance of narrative from its 73 minutes; Glover’s character, for instance, was bafflingly credited as “Dueling Demi-God Auteur/The Young Man’s Inner Psyche and Id.”

In the Q&A following the film, Glover addressed his casting of actors with Down Syndrome, a decision that may be interpreted as exploitation. The film’s onslaught of taboos, he said, was intended to raise questions about what is and isn’t permitted within the “corporately financed” world of Hollywood cinema. The unintended question it raised was one of celebrity: How much of the draw to these four sold-out nights was Glover’s name? Was it a performance, a work of art, a mark of insanity, a mark of genius, a cultural experience, a waste of time, a work intended to offend? Would anyone be here if this parade of unsettling images were directed by a nobody?

Glover’s ability to capitalize on his persona (personality?) brought viewers that otherwise might not sit through a slideshow of altered art and a transgressive film, people who paid  $17 to see a man whose reputation outshines his film credits. Point, Glover: Questions were raised. Whether they were answered with any satisfaction is a different matter. 

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