crispin-glover_kmaer_9028On the surface, the filmmaker Crispin Hellion Glover (a.k.a. Crispin Glover the actor of Back to the Future and Charlie’s Angels) might seem obsessed with freaks. But after receiving his 5,000-word-plus answer to a few questions I sent him via email, it is apparent that his seeming obsession is … a little more. Referring to his two films in his in-progress “It” trilogy, What Is It? (2005) and It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE (2007), Glover wrote, “I would say the films do not break rules, but it is true that many people are used to a certain amount of standards of cinematic syntax that are offered by most corporately-funded and distributed films. They are also used to a certain kind of fare offered by corporately-funded and distributed cinema that does not go beyond the realm of this, which can be considered good and evil or, in another word, taboo.”

He sounds like a fellow totally up the Independent Ethos’ alley.

It’s extremely rare that I’m not granted a preview of a film before talking to a filmmaker. Actually, this is a first. it seems Glover is very controlling over his films. First of all, his movies are only available on 35mm, and Glover is always present when they are presented, plus, I am told, he does not grant press comp tickets. So I had to really on a press kit to get some idea of what these films are about. For his second film in the trilogy, the film’s synopsis goes thusly…

It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE goes into uncharted cinematic territory with screenwriter Steven C. Stewart starring in this semi-autobiographical, psycho-sexual, tale about a man with severe cerebral palsy and a fetish for girls with long hair. Part horror film, part exploitation picture and part documentary of a man who cannot express his sexuality in the way he desires, (due to his physical condition), this fantastical and often humorous tale is told completely from Stewart’s actual point of view — that of someone who has lived for years watching people do things he will never be able to do. Here, Stewart’s character is something of a lady killer, seducing a troubled, recently divorced mother (Margit Carstensen), her teenage daughter and any number of other ladies he encounters along the way.

“Ever since I read the screenplay in 1987 I knew I had to produce the film,” said Glover about what attracted him to Stewart’s story.

Stewart also plays a role in Glover’s directorial feature debut, What Is It? That film’s synopsis is described as:

Known for creating many memorable, incredibly quirky characters onscreen as an actor, Glover’s first effort as a director will not disappoint fans of his offbeat sensibilities and eccentric taste. Featuring a cast largely comprised of actors with Down’s Syndrome, the film is not about Down’s Syndrome. Glover describes it as “Being the adventures of a young man whose principal interests are snails, salt, a pipe and how to get home as tormented by an hubristic racist inner psyche.”

Glover writes about these movies with passion. However, some think they are performance pieces that should be looked at as suspect (here’s one not entirely positive reaction to his first film). I agree that it should be taken with a grain of salt, but the effort isn’t entirely vacuous. I later learned his 5,000 word response to my email questions was not exactly exclusive, as he pulls from a document he has written over the years to answer common questions. However, that document is a mere 1600 words, according to this article from Flavorwire, so I think I got some quality answers from the filmmaker who swears he does not do this to undermine journalists but help them out with the arduous transcribing process (and ask any of us, transcribing sucks). This article from San Diego City Beat clarifies Glover’s intentions.

That said, I’ve decided to share the entirety of Glover’s responses, unedited in the rest of this post. He is in South Florida this Sunday and Monday at Fort Lauderdale’s Cinema Paradiso to screen the movie’s as well as host “Crispin  the Cinema. First off, for a short version of this article, check out the Miami Herald, which published my original article based on the interview (jump through the image below):


And here, the moment you have been waiting to pour through, Crispin Hellion Glover. Besides getting into detail about his two films and his “big slideshow,” he touches on David Lynch, the flicker of 35mm and his father, actor Bruce Glover, who will star in his as yet untitled next film:

Hi Hans, 
Thank you for the excellent questions! Below are the responses. If you can put a link in the article to it is the best way for people to get more information about the shows and films and where I will be as I continue to tour. All high resolution images are available on the site including a photograph of myself from “What is it?”.
I look forward to reading the article. Please come up and say hello at the show!
Glad to see South Florida will finally see your show here and for two nights at that. Thank you for coming. 
I am looking forward to it.
Have you been to this area before? If so what are your impressions? If not, do you have any expectations?
I have toured with my shows and films in Orlando, Jacksonville, Gainesville before and had a terrific time. I look forward to coming back to Florida.
From what I’ve read, it sounds like your films break the rules of what many expect from cinema. What are the limits of a conventional narrative?
I would say the films do not break rules, but it is true that many people are used to a certain amount of standers cinematic syntax that are offered by most corporately funded and distributed films. They are also used to a certain kind of fare offered by corporately funded and distributed cinema that does not go beyond the realm of this which can be considered good and evil on in another word taboo. The taboo in the films can often be seen be the divisiveness of laughter in the audience.
Laughter is not necessarily an indication of what is standardly called comedy. Laughter can also be classified as a civilized growl. This civilized growl can in a civilized fashion with the use of laughter castigate the sick or the foolish ones or the foolish part of oneself is what laughter actually indicates. People think of laughter as something that brings people together. It does. It brings people together against something else.
This is why laughter is an excellent indicator of taboo in both “What is it?” and “It is fine. EVERYTHING IS FINE.” If someone is laughing at one end of the row of seats someone may look down that row of seats and at he person who is laughing and think to themselves “What is wrong with that person?” This is because many areas of both films exist in the in between plane of that which is considered funny one person and decidedly not funny by the next person. It is smallitisfineposterweba big reason why I continue to tour with the films in a group situation. Group situations can illustrate very clearly by means of laughter what is taboo. This sort of unsettled audience reaction happens quite a lot in both films. This is something that I was quite aware would happen when making both the films and the fact that is happens is a satisfying experience for me as a filmmaker. This is true even if I know some elements are bound to be misunderstood by some, I also know many we have a visceral educational illustration of a portion of how propaganda has direct affect on human moral conditioning. Taboo is the grey area that is not clearly defined by the moral codes within the culture and it makes for fascinating group discomfort when properly applied, which then can be interpreted in an educational fashion.
I have had some people believe “It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE.” would fit in to the genre of “psychological terror” but I would call it a drama with humor. Also even though this film is definitely not a documentary it does document this main actor/writer living out his fantasy that he wrote for himself to portray.
To me all good drama has humor in it and that is how I would classify What is it? is as a drama with humor. I would never call it a comedy though.
If What is it? is to be classified for various reasons then it is classified as a narrative film. The more broad classification of drama, and a drama that has humor sits well with me. The kind of narrative that it is uses a cinematic syntax that has been used before by various filmmakers and it is not a new syntax, but it is not the same syntax that is usually used by corporately funded and distributed filmmakers. Buñuel is definitely a filmmaker that had influence on What is it?  Formally he was a “Surrealist” with a capital “S”. The Surrealists being a “political” group as Buñuel described it in his beautiful autobiography ‘My Last Sigh”. Now “surrealism” with a small “s” has come to mean something to do with art, and to me the most valuable thing I know about the surrealism is using free association to get the subconscious levels for artistic expression. That element of surrealism is extremely valuable!
I am not genre biased in any way and if there is something that truly interests me I would not veer away from any genre. That being said I currently do not have a plan to write or direct a romantic musical comedy, but that does not mean I would not. To me all good drama has humor in it and that is how I would classify What is it? Is as a drama with humor. I would never call it a comedy though.
People should not view the film any differently from when they go see a film at a multiplex, although their experience might be different from going to the multiplex.  I do not classify “It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE.” as experimental or underground. I simply consider it a drama. Although it is a drama with humor as any good drama should be.
Also, I see it’s important for you to present in 35mm. I love that. I think the light has a more mystical effect on the viewer’s consciousness above digital. Why do you prefer that format? 
I am not against digital for certain applications.
For anyone that has grown up with the grain pattern of film  it would seem to have a favorable aesthetic above the pixel of digital particularly for anything that represents and older time period.
Also the slight flutter of light from the shutter of a film camera adds to the hypnotic effect of film as does the slight movement of the film running through the gate of the camera.
It also seems essential that you make personal appearances with your work. Why is it important?
The live aspects of the shows are not to be underestimated. This is a large part of how I bring audiences in to the theater and a majority of how I recoup is by what is charged for the live show and what I make from selling the books after the shows.
For “Crispin Hellion Glover’s Big Slide Show” I perform a one hour dramatic narration of eight different books I have made over the years. The books are taken from old books from the 1800’s that have been changed in to different books from what they originally were. They are heavily illustrated with original drawings and reworked images and photographs.
I started making my books in 1983 for my own enjoyment without the concept of publishing them. I had always written and drawn and the books came as an accidental outgrowth of that. I was in an acting class in 1982 and down the block was an art gallery that had a book store upstairs. In the book store there was a book for sale that was an old binding taken from the 1800’s and someone had put their art work inside the binding. I thought this was a good idea and set out to do the same thing. I worked a lot with India ink at the time and was using the India ink on the original pages to make various art. I had always liked words in WhatIsItpostertwoart and left some of the words on one of the pages. I did this again a few pages later and then when I turned the pages I noticed that a story started to naturally form and so I continued with this. When I was finished with the book I was pleased with the results and kept making more of them. I made most of the books in the 80’s and very early 90’s. Some of the books utilize text from the binding it was taken from and some of them are basically completely original text. Sometimes I would find images that I was inspired to create stories for or sometimes it was the binding or sometimes it was portions of the texts that were interesting. Altogether, I made about twenty of them. When I was editing my first feature film “What is it?” There was a reminiscent quality to the way I worked with the books because as I was expanding the film in to a feature from what was originally going to be a short, I was taking film material that I had shot for a different purpose originally and re-purposed it for a different idea and I was writing and shooting and ultimately editing at the same time. Somehow I was comfortable with this because of similar experiences with making my books.
Every once in a while, but really very rarely, someone will come up to me during the book signing I think two times in the nine years I have been touring, and they have shown me a book they have done something similar with. They described to me that they came in to it on their own. It seems to be a specific art form that rarely people will just discover doing on their own.
When I first started publishing the books in 1988 people said I should have book readings. But the book are so heavily illustrated and they way the illustrations are used within the books they help to tell the story so the only way for the books to make sense was to have visually representations of the images. This is why I knew a slide show was necessary. It took a while but in 1992 I started performing what I now call Crispin Hellion Glover’s Big Side Show Part 1. The content of that show has not changed since I first started performing it. But the performance of the show has become more dramatic as opposed to more of a reading. The books do not change but the performance of the show of course varies slightly from show to show based the audience’s energy and my energy.
People sometimes get confused as to what “Crispin Hellion Glover’s Big Slide Show (Parts 1&2)” is so now I always let it be known that it is a one hour dramatic narration of eight different profusely illustrated books that I have made over the years. The illustrations from the books are projected behind me as I perform the show. There is a second slide show now that also has 8 books. Part 2 is performed if I have a show with Part 1 of the “IT” trilogy and then on the WriterDirector2twosubsequent night I will perform the second slide show and Part 2 of the “IT” trilogy. The second slide show has been developed over the last several years and the content has changed as it has been developed, but I am very happy with the content of the second slide show now.
The books and films are all narrative. Sometimes people see thematic correlations between the content of my books and the content of the films. 
The fact that I tour with the film helps the distribution element. I consider what I am doing to be following in the steps of vaudeville performers. Vaudeville was the main form of entertainment for most of the history of the US. It has only relatively recently stopped being the main source of entertainment, but that does not mean this live element mixed with other media is no longer viable. In fact it is apparent that it is sorely missed.
I definitely have been aware of the element of utilizing  the fact that I am known from work in the corporate media I have done in the last 25 years or so. This is something I rely on for when I go on tour with my films. It lets me go to various places and have the local media cover the fact that I will be performing a one hour live dramatic narration of eight different books which are profusely illustrated and projected as I go through them, then show the film either  What is it? Being 72 minutes or It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE being 74 minutes. Then having a Q and A and then a book signing. As I funded the films I knew that this is how I would recoup my investment even if it a slow process.
Volcanic Eruptions was a business I started in Los Angeles in 1988 as Crispin Hellion Glover doing business as Volcanic Eruptions. It was a name to use for my book publishing company.  About a year later I had a record/CD come out with a corporation called Restless Records. About when I had sold the same amount of books as CD/records had sold it was very clear to me that because I had published my own books that I had a far greater profit margin. It made me very suspicious of working with corporations as a business model. Financing/Producing my own films is based on the basic business model of my own publishing company. There are benefits and drawbacks about self distributing my own films.  In this economy it seems like a touring with the live show and showing the films with a book signing is a very good basic safety net for recouping the monies I have invested in the films.
There are other beneficial aspects of touring with the shows other than monetary elements. There are benefits that I am in control of the distribution and personally supervise the monetary intake of the films that I am touring with. I also control piracy in this way because digital copy of this film is stolen material and highly prosecutable. It is enjoyable to travel and visit places, meet people, perform the shows and have interaction with the audiences and discussions about the films afterwards. The forum after the show is also not to under-estimated as a very important part of the show for the audience. 
This also makes me much more personally grateful to the individuals who come to my shows as there is no corporate intermediary. The drawbacks are that a significant amount of time and energy to promote and travel and perform the shows. Also the amount of people seeing the films is much smaller than if I were to distribute the films in a more traditional sense. The way I distribute my films is certainly not traditional in the contemporary sense of film distribution but perhaps is very traditional when looking further back at vaudeville era film distribution. If there are any filmmakers that are able to utilize aspects of what I am doing then that is good. It has taken many years to organically develop what I am doing now as far as my distribution goes.
You must therefore be very familiar with your fans. How have any of them surprised you?
I am not generally surprised by anything people do at the shows.
What attracted you to Steven C. Stewart’s story?
What do you hope the audience takes away from it?
Steven C. Stewart wrote and is the main actor in part two of the trilogy titled It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. I put Steve in to the cast of What is it? because he had written this screenplay which I read in 1987. When I turned What is it? from a short film in to a feature I realized there were certain thematic elements in the film that related to what Steven C. Stewart’s screenplay dealt with.  Steve had been locked in a nursing home for about ten years when his mother died. He had been born with a severe case of cerebral palsy and he was very difficult to understand. People that were caring for him in the nursing home would derisively call him an “M.R.” short for “Mental Retard”. This is not a nice thing to say to anyone, but Steve was of normal intelligence. When he did get out he wrote his screenplay. Although it is written in the genre of a murder detective thriller truths of his own existence come through much more clearly than if he hadfinal posterlarger written it as a standard autobiography. As I have stated, I put Steven C. Stewart in to What is it? When I turned What is it? in to a feature film. Originally What is it? Was going to be a short film to promote the concept to corporate film funding entities that working with a cast wherein most characters are played by actors with Down’s Syndrome. Steve had written his screenplay in in the late 1970’s. I read it in 1987 and as soon as I had read it I knew I had to produce the film. Steven C. Stewart died within a month after we finished shooting the film. Cerebral palsy is not generative but Steve was 62 when we shot the film. One of Steve’s lungs had collapsed because he had started choking on his own saliva and he got pneumonia. I specifically started funding my own films with the money I make from the films I act in when Steven C. Stewart’s lung collapsed in the year 2000 this was around the same time that the first Charlie’s Angels film was coming to me. I realized with the money I made from that film I could put straight in to the Steven C. Stewart film. That is exactly what happened. I finished acting in Charlie’s Angels and then went to Salt Lake City where Steven C. Stewart lived. I met with Steve and David Brothers with whom I co-directed the film. I went back to LA and acted in an lower budget film for about five weeks and David Brothers started building the sets. Then I went straight back to Salt Lake and we completed shooting the film within about six months in three separate smaller productions. Then Steve died within a month after we finished shooting. I am relieved to have gotten this film finally completed because ever since I read the screenplay in 1987 I knew I had to produce the film. Steven C. Stewart’s own true story was fascinating and then the beautiful story and the naïve including his fascination of women with long hair and the graphic violence and sexuality and the revealing truth of his psyche from the screenplay were all combined. There was a specific marriage proposal scene that was the scene I remember reading that made me say “I have to produce this film.”
I also knew I had to produce it correctly. I would not have felt right about myself if I had not gotten Steve’s film made, I would have felt that I had done something wrong and that I had actually done a bad thing if I had not gotten it made. So I am greatly relieved to have completed it especially since I am very pleased with how well the film has turned out. We shot It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE.  while I was still completing What it? And this is partly why What is it? took a long time to complete. I am very proud of the film as I am of What is it? I feel It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. will probably be the best film I will have anything to do with in my entire career.  People who are interested in when I will be back should join up on the e mail list at as they will be emailed with information as to where I will be where with whatever film I tour with. It is by far the best way to know how to see the films.

After Charlie’s Angels came out it did very well financially and was good for my acting career. I started getting better roles that also paid better and I could continue using that money to finance my films that I am so truly passionate about. I have been able to divorce myself from the content of the films that I act in and look at acting as a craft that I am helping other filmmakers to accomplish what it is that they want to do. Usually filmmakers have hired me because there is something they have felt would be interesting to accomplish with using me in their film and usually I can try to do something interesting as an actor. If for some reason the director is not truly interested in doing something that I personally find interesting with the character then I can console myself that with the money I am making to be in their production I can help to fund my own films that I am so truly passionate about. Usually though I feel as though I am able to get something across as an actor that I feel good about. It has worked out well.
style shop copy
Steve was a genuinely great guy! It is hard to define what my relationship with Steve is/was. During the approximate 15 years I knew Steve from 1986 to his death in 2001 I would communicate with him in spurts. He started writing me short e mails urging to make his film after we shot his portions of “What is it?” in 1996. He would write simple things like “When are we going to make the film before I kick the bucket?”
Steve was definitely gracious and had a genuinely rebellious sense of humor. If he had only had one of those qualities I probably would not have related to him as much, but the fact that he had both a sense of humor and a sense of rebellion made it so I could very much relate to him.
I personally financed the film and had taken out no insurance if Steve were to die. Steve was a strong person and I knew that he has an inner need to get this story out. He had already stayed alive by getting an operation to get this film made and I knew he would stay alive no matter what to get the film completed.
About a month after we finished shooting I got a telephone call one morning and it became apparent that Steve was in the hospital with a collapsed lung again and that he was basically asking permission to take himself off life support and he wanted to know if we had enough footage to finish the film. I know that if I had said “No Steve. We do not have enough footage. You need to get better and we have to finish the film” He would have gotten whatever operation needed to get better and been happy to come back to the set and shoot. As it was we did have enough footage and it was a sad day and heavy responsibility to let him know that we would be able to complete the film.
In retrospect Steven C. Stewart was a great communicator. Steve has had great positive influence on my life and as much as I did like and enjoy Steve when he was alive, I realize even more how much he was important to me. It may sound sappy, but if Steve were here today I would be very happy to tell him how much he ultimately positively has affected my life.
I see your father is in your latest film and your next film. What is it like to direct him?
I have now started shooting my next feature at my property in Czech. The crew and cast stayed at my chateau in Czech.
I will be preview from my next feature film which marks the first time I have acted with my father Bruce Glover who has been seen in such films as Diamonds are Forever, Chinatown and Ghost World. bruce This is my first film to have been shot with 35 mm negative.  My first two features were shot with standard 16mm film then blown up for a 35 mm negative from a digital intermediate.
There are great things about digital technology. I love the grain pattern of film and this is also why I enjoy 16mm as well as 35mm. So far my feature film projects have been shot on film.
This is my third feature film production. This will not be “IT IS MINE.” Nor will it have anything to do with the “IT” trilogy. It is not part 3 of the “IT” trilogy.
I have owned a chateau in the Czech Republic for many years now and it has been in a state of work to get both the chateau ready for housing the crew members and cast when I am shooting my own productions and the 17,000 square feet of former horse stables that are now the areas for the shooting stages where the sets have been built.
There has been an enormous amount of work here. When people hear I am coming to my chateau they always say “Have a great time!” as though I am going on vacation. But I actually have way more difficult work here than at my house in LA. In the last two years I have been at my property in Czech more than LA, but also on the road with my shows and films or acting in other people’s films, more than either of my homes.
I should not go in to too much detail for part 3 of the “It” trilogy yet as “IT IS MINE.” will not be the film I shoot next. There are other projects outside of the trilogy that I will shoot next. The Czech Republic is where I own a chateau built in the 1600‘s. I have converted its former horse stables in to film shooting stages. Czech is another culture and another language and I need to build up to complex productions like “What is it?” and the existing sequel “It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE.” “IT IS MINE.” is an even more complex project than the previous two films put together, so it will be a while yet for that production. I will step outside of the trilogy for a number of films that deal with different thematic elements from the “IT” trilogy.
The sets for my next film productions were in construction for over two years now. At the same time the sets were being built I was in the process of continuing to develop the screenplay for myself and my father to act in together on these sets. My father, Bruce Glover, is also an actor who has appeared in such films as “Chinatown” and “Diamonds Are Forever” and he and I have not yet acted together on film. The project with my father is the next film I am currently preparing to make as a director/producer. This will be the first role I have written for myself to act that will be written primarily as an acting role, as opposed to a role that was written for the character I play to merely serve the structure. But even still on some level I am writing the screenplay to be something that I can afford to make. There are two other projects I am currently developing to shoot on sets at my property in the Czech Republic. These films will be relatively affordable by utilizing the basic set structures that can be slightly re-worked for variations and yet each film will feel separate from one another in look and style yet still cinematically pleasing so they will be worth to project in various cinemas. 
Where does the Hellion part of your name come from?
My father Bruce Glover is an actor. In fact he is in Part two of the trilogy It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE! People may know him from such films as Diamonds are Forever, Chinatown and the original Walking Tall series.  His middle name is Herbert. He never liked his middle name Herbert. So as a young struggling actor in New York he would say to himself “I am Bruce H. Glover, Bruce Hellion Glover. I am a hellion a troublemaker.” And that would make him feel good. HeDicussion told my mother this was his real middle name. When they were married she saw him writing on the marriage certificate Bruce Herbert Glover and she thought “Who am I marrying?” They gave Hellion to me as my real middle name. I had always written and drawn as a child and I would always sign my drawing and writing with my whole name Crispin Hellion Glover. When I started acting professionally at 13 which was something I had decided on my own I could do as a profession at a relatively young age it became apparent that I had to choose a professional acting name for SAG. I thought my whole name was too long for acting and just used my first and last name. When I started publishing my books I simply continued using the name I had always used for writing and drawing. This is also why I use my whole name for my films.
I had a friend who played in a marvelous punk band in Argentina with a singer with Down’s Syndrome. Still, people have biases when they see performers with Down’s Syndrome. Why did you decide to cast your first film with actors who have Down’s?
I am very careful to make it quite clear that “What is it?” is not a film about Down’s Syndrome but my psychological reaction to the corporate restraints that have happened in the last 20 to 30 years in film making. Specifically anything that can possibly make an audience uncomfortable is necessarily excised or the film will not be corporately funded or distributed. This is damaging to the culture because it is the very moment when an audience member sits back in their chair looks up at the screen and thinks to their self “Is this right what I am watching? Is this wrong what I am watching? Should I be here? Should the filmmaker have made this? What is it?” -and that is the title of the film. What is it that is taboo in the culture? What does it mean that taboo has been ubiquitously excised in this culture’s media? What does it mean to the culture when it does not properly process taboo in it’s media? It is a bad thing because when questions are not being asked because these kinds of questions are when people are having a truly educational experience. For the culture to not be able to ask questions leads towards a non educational experience and that is what is happening in this culture. This stupefies this culture and that is of course a bad thing. So What is it? Is a direct reaction to the contents this culture’s media. I would like people to think for themselves.
I loved you in Wild At Heart. David Lynch said he told you something terrible was going to happen to you if you let that glove go. Do you remember what you thought of?
It was more of an abstraction then something specific. David Lynch is of course a great director.
In what way — if any — did Lynch’s style inspire your way of directing?
When I was 16 and learned to drive in 1980 I went to see the midnight screening of “Eraserhead” at the Nuart Theater many times. It was a very important film to me and it is still my favorite David Lynch film although I always enjoy and appreciate his work. I am also very glad to have worked with him as an actor and he had said he would Executive produce what will eventually be part 3 of the IT trilogy “IT IS MINE.” But that film will still be a while from now before it is made. The fact that he has been kind to me when he is someone I admired from a long time before I met him is a very good thing. It means a lot to me. 

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Hans Morgenstern

Crsipin Glover will appear at the Cinema Paradiso in Fort Lauderdale over the course of two days with his two films, It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE (tickets) and What Is It?(tickets) on Sunday, June 28, and Monday, June 29. The films are preceded by Crispin Hellion Glover’s Big Slide Show, Parts 1 and 2 and followed by a Q&A session with the actor/director. He will also be present to sign copies of his books. For more info, visit’ Glover’s website: All images comes from his site and used by permission.

(Copyright 2015 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Ry Greenberg

Photo by Ry Greenberg

This week has seen me caught up on a couple of preview interviews with two little-known but talented directors. The first fellow I spoke with was writer/filmmaker Alan Greenberg (the second was Terence Nance, whose interview I will share shortly). Greenberg’s documentary on the funeral of Bob Marley, the Land of Look Behind is a luscious and contemplative work steeped in atmosphere. The most resonant images are that of the foggy mountainous land harboring small huts of Rastafarians who smoke amazingly humongous joints and offer philosophical eulogies to Marley, not to mention the land from whence they all sprouted. Besides the meandering chatter of the Jamaicans, the film’s soundtrack is also coated by interludes of luscious, droning and percussive synth music by K. Leimer while the camera slowly pans over the landscape. In the end, the giant funeral for this man becomes a festival and celebration by people who thought of him with greater regard than their own president. This documentary will convince you Marley was the king of Jamaica.

Greenberg had worked with Werner Herzog on Heart of Glass in 1976 before shooting this documentary in 1982. You can see the influence. However, Greenberg notes, Herzog was also inspired by Greenberg’s work. I spoke with him ahead of his visit this weekend to Miami Beach where he will discuss his book about working with Herzog, Every Night the Trees Disappear, published by the Chicago Review Press in May of last year. Every NightGreenberg said he considers Herzog a best friend and they remain in touch. “There were times when Werner would call me and say, ‘Alan, I stole the opening of the Land of Look Behind from you in my Gesualdo film.’ And I would look at the Gesualdo film, and he completely blew it. He did not achieve the same effect, but then you look at Land of Silence and Darkness, and you realize that’s where my influence really came to fruition because suddenly Werner was making films, not only as he’d always made films and which influenced me but now you can see it was almost a wordless documentary. There was scant narration and it was all composed in almost a musical fashion, or an oratorical fashion, and that’s how I did Land of Look Behind. I didn’t do it as a documentary. I did it as a piece of art or a piece of music.”

Greenberg will also discuss Love In Vain, his script about the Mississippi Delta blues legend of the early 20th century, Robert Johnson. He recently revised the script for a new edition, which saw release only six months ago by University of Minnesota Press as a book.Love-In-Vain-cover But Greenberg wrote it more than 30 years ago, and it has seen prior printed editions, the first in 1983. Now he says David Lynch will direct it. He jumped the gun a bit to reveal that to me when we spoke via phone over the weekend, and Lynch was forced to release a statement that clarified, “I’m a 30 year fan of the screenplay Alan Greenberg wrote for Love In Vain. I would very much like to direct it someday. But, a number of things would have to fall in place before that would occur.”

It’s a striking notion that Lynch would direct such a film, but there’s some weirdness to Johnson, like his alleged pact with devil. Also, Lynch has been known to take true-life stories and treat them with sincere respect on the big screen, like the Elephant Man and the Straight Story. “Yeah, there are two David Lynches,” says Greenberg, “the David Lynch who did Elephant Man and the David Lynch who did Blue Velvet and Wild At Heart and Mulholland Dr. and all of those, but there’s also the David Lynch who did Elephant Man, the Straight Story, which won Oscars and was a very poignant, charming little film.”

You can read much more of my conversation with Greenberg, by jumping through the Cultist logo below, a blog run by “The Miami New Times:”

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Alan Greenberg will appear at the Art Center South Florida via Books and Books Saturday, June 8, at 2:30 p.m. in Miami Beach to discuss his books and sign copies. Visit the event page for more details (that’s a hotlink).

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2013 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

The last film I can remember having left me feeling as puzzled and intrigued as Julia Leigh’s Sleeping Beauty was Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut. I would go on to see Eyes Wide Shut at least 10 times and write an in-depth seminar paper in grad school using the psycho-analytic theory of Jacques Lacan to illuminate the film’s message and finally gain an appreciation for it. I still have not grown tired of that film, which too many have simply brushed aside as Kubrick’s weakest. I’d call it a masterpiece.

But that’s another article, and though I would not consider Sleeping Beauty as existing on the same level as Eyes Wide Shut, I can understand why critics are so similarly divided on it as they were with Eyes Wide Shut when it came out. When Warner Bros. released Eyes Wide Shut in 1999, just before Kubrick’s death, the director had long achieved the status of one of the handful of true master filmmakers whose influence and regard was guaranteed to last throughout the history of cinema. Sleeping Beauty, however, is Leigh’s first film, and though she proves her skill at handling mystery* in a story, which she also wrote, the film falls just short of the transcendentalism of Kubrick or another filmmaker well know for his mysterious quality, David Lynch. That said, Leigh still has much to offer in abstract, eerie atmosphere in this odd psycho-sexual tale of the darker corners of humanity, and, if she goes on to direct more films, I can see critics re-evaluating this movie more favorably in hindsight.

The film follows Lucy (Emily Browning) on a path into prostitution in order to makes ends meet. We first meet her in a laboratory as she volunteers to swallow a medical device on a long cable. She chokes it back centimeter by centimeter, fighting one gag reflex after another as a young man in a lab coat (Jamie Timony) assures her she is doing great.

It’s a twisted set up that brazenly foreshadows the clinical and sexual film that lies ahead. The film establishes that Lucy is studying at a university and cannot keep up with the rent while struggling at jobs in the copy room of an office and waiting tables at a cafe. She is probably taking part in a medical study for some extra cash too. Oh, and she also dabbles in sexual favors for money at a bar and abuses cocaine.

This is all quickly established in several, efficient, stagey scenes, with the camera mostly at a distance, fetishsizing props, like rows of stacked chairs on tables at the cafe during closing time and neat rows of tables in the lab, which has almost symmetrically equal equipment on each side of the screen. Lucy and the other characters stand mostly fully framed in the shots with distance between them, as they speak in curt sentences laden with shared history.

This odd pacing is always interesting, set among one dazzling staged backdrop after another. The surreal atmosphere grows more heightened when Lucy answers an ad for work as a “model.” Following a brief interview in a wood-paneled office with Clara (Rachael Blake) about Lucy’s sex and health, the woman that will be her madame orders her to strip. As a man (Eden Falk) examines her limbs, Clara assures her that in this job, “your vagina will not be penetrated. Your vagina is your temple.”

The distinctive, clinical but warm art direction, the film’s steady pacing, the slow and delicate zooms and pans of the camera and the mysterious dialogue between the characters are all elements Leigh seems to make her own and serve the ominous mood of the film well. A still image of the scene described above, indeed captures the meticulous quality of Leigh’s mise-en-scene:

From the actors in the foreground, their postures, faces, hairstyles, not to mention their dress, coupled with the dynamic contrasts of background, the image breathes forth an evocative quality typical of the movie. Throughout the film, as events grow more twisted, even the distant camera does not detract from the chilling action.

Leigh is a certain kind of storyteller, one who has immense faith in her audience, offering an almost abstract experience of story that invites viewers to bring their baggage to the proceedings. Before this movie, Leigh had already established herself as a novelist of high regard. Her debut novel, the Hunter (1999), did a heck of a job to put her on the literary map, bringing her praise and awards from across the world. The Australia-based writer only recently followed it up with the 2008 novella, Disquiet, a book I happened to have read over the course of a single weekend a couple of years ago. I can personally speak to an odd surreal quality and economic power to Leigh’s prose that is also on full display in this, her first movie.

If there are short comings in Sleeping Beauty, it comes when fleshed out characters fail to materialize, as those that populate the world of Sleeping Beauty seem to walk through it in a haze of mystery that overshadows any insight to their individual motivations. For some reason, Lucy chooses to burn her first hundred-dollar bill she earns. For someone set up as so desperate for money, the effort seems a costly over-symbolic move that contradicts her actions, including a moment when she pleads for more work from Clara. In conversation with Clara, one of the elderly men who sleeps with Lucy (Peter Carroll) gives a rambling monologue that does not seem to add much of anything to the film. The director seems more in tuned with the female characters than the men and would have done just as well to leave them alone as the tools they are in the machinations of the story.

These ambiguous scenes (and there can be more or less of them, depending on the viewer) can be a detriment for those searching for story, but I would posit something beyond story rises above these shortcomings. This is the stuff of female nightmares. Imagine taking a potion that puts you to sleep with no memory or even dreams, laying down naked in a bed, where you know men have paid to be in your presence to do anything they want so long as they do not leave a mark or penetrate you. That is the job Lucy has signed up for, and what happens in the various scenes with three different men varies, but all send shivers down the spine. In the interest of the power of imagination, I shall spare the details, for there is nothing like the shock of the unfolding proceedings as Lucy submits her nude body to the whims of these old, damaged men, one of the angriest of whom admits to Clara the only thing that can get him an erection nowadays anyway is if a woman used her fingers to penetrate him.

Browning deserves a special award for acting while limp. She never flinches while her character suffers extreme abuse by these men. No doubt as there are some who will be left disturbed, others might feel turned on. However, the innocuousness of the set design and the calm movements of the camera, be they slow zooms, pans or tilts— are all patient, gradual and pregnant with audience implication (or director’s) gaze. Any sexuality is couched in voyeurism. There are no thrusts when Lucy works, and, as Clara tells all the men who “sleep” with her girl, “no penetration.” This is not a film that celebrates or exploits the female body. It repels just as much as it titillates, recalling a similar statement film by another great surrealist director: David Cronenberg, the aptly titled A History of Violence.

Though the elusive quality of the film does seem to get in the way of an unshakably definitive statement, Leigh offers a strong reach that recalls Lynch without coming across as a blatant copier. The amount of Lynch imitators (not that she is one directly or consciously) often steer their train way off the tracks and brew up embarrassing stupidities of films (I guess many of which I have thankfully forgotten). The calm and control of Sleeping Beauty save it from becoming another one of those movies.

This elusive line where transcendence occurs in a film is difficult to define without close examination of a filmmaker’s technique. Kubrick, Lynch and Cronenberg are all master craftsmen with an almost superhuman insight into the human psyche, and rare is the film in their oeuvre that does not deliver. As for Sleeping Beauty, the moments of shock that arrive hit at a gut level, tapping deep into the unconscious, the source of nightmares. Though Leigh does not really hit the subtle note for true primal chills and a grand end statement, she comes close. But even without a powerful, final moment of transcendence (and the film tries for one), the techniques in story, pace, art direction, camera work and characterization shows Leigh has all the right moves. Sleeping Beauty maintains an ominous sense of abstract but riveting mystery reeking of sexuality that will keep the adventurous viewer hooked.

Hans Morgenstern

Sleeping Beauty is rated R, runs 101 min., and opens in South Florida Friday, Dec. 16, at 9 p.m. at the Miami Beach Cinematheque, which invited me to a preview screening for the purposes of this review, and the Cosford Cinema at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, on the same day and time.


*As far as the word “mystery” in cinema, do not expect a whodunit type of film. Sleeping Beauty concerns itself with the darkest, most primal drives of sex.

(Copyright 2011 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives exists in that all too rare world of pure cinema: A place where images and their associative relationship, through editing and even pacing, or how long the camera lingers on a vision, invites deeper meanings. Director Apichatpong Weerasethakul is an expert at this. The Thai director has shown more maturity with every film, and Uncle Boonmee continues this growth.

Weerasethakul’s films have always been meditative. He allows scenes and images to breath with much patience, opening the audience to informed personal breakthroughs. His films are a guide to the experience the viewer brings to the cinema screen, as the projected image, I have always believed, is best appreciated as a mirror of sorts. It seems Weerasethakul feels the same way. In his 2004 movie Tropical Malady (Support the Independent Ethos, buy the movie on he has the main actor stare and flirt with the audience during the opening credits. In the commentary of that DVD, he says this is in order to invite the audience into the movie.

As great and typical a Weerasethakulian experience that is Tropical Malady, the director had several movies to grow from there. Compared to Uncle Boonmee, Tropical Malady is ham-fisted. Boonmee shows a much greater trust in the audience. The camera lingers much less, and Weerasethakul’s lens has grown more focused. All the while the director leaves those entrancing spaces that invite the audience to inform the images.

Thanapat Saisaymar plays Boonmee, a farmer in his last days due to kidney failure. Though his days are numbered, this sets him up with a unique opportunity to reflect on not only his current life, but the cycle of lives that informs this old soul. You know he is near death when the ghost of his deceased wife Huay (Natthakarn Aphaiwong) appears at the dining room table as Boonmee eats with his nephew Tong (Sakda Kaewbuadee) and his sister-in-law Jen (Jenjira Pongpas). Huay has been dead 19 years, and Boonmee has not seen her since. As the film goes by, and he gets closer to death, she becomes more solid and explains to him “Ghosts aren’t attached to places but to people.”

The wonderful monkey wrench in all this is the fact that Tong and Jen also respond to her presence and interact with her as plainly as another flesh and blood person in their presence, though they do refer to her as a ghost.  Weerasethakul is not offering a fever dream of a character approaching the abyss. This is a film about transcendence.

Complicating matters even more at the dinner place is a second, even stranger apparition. Boonmee’s long-lost son, Boonsong (Geerasak Kulhong), has returned from the jungle that surrounds the farm in the form of a creature not too different from the mythic Sasquatch but with glowing red eyes.

He emerges out of the shadows from the stairs leading up to the dining table. A scene that Weerasethakul could have played for cheap fright is instead offered with incongruous mystery, giving a sensation of surrealism instead of terror. It feels like a scene from a David Lynch movie if Lynch had a lighter heart.

The creature soon introduces himself, and tells a tale of how he slipped away from civilization to become one with nature. As Boonsong tells his story, Weerasethakul plays with something he has also grown more crafty with over the years: sound design. He augments Boonsong’s story with an odd throbbing noise, not too different from the sound one might hear when covering the ears to only hearing the echoing of their own heartbeat. It’s a sonic theme that recurs a few more times in the movie signaling moments of transcendence in the story, and it again recalls Lynch who also uses sound in unsettling and oblique ways in his films.

Boonmee certainly feels like a transcendental experience, and it is thanks to the deliberate and daring pace of the film, not to mention Weerasethakul’s inclination to defy real world rules. He does this simply. In what seems like arbitrary images, he captures the everyday with more power than mainstream movies, which prefer to shove narrative and conflicts and character types down the viewer’s throat.

Like a great painting or a great song, his film defies written description. His movies exist in and of themselves. They are meant to be experienced. They activate the mind on a near subconscious level.

Watching his films allows for an entrancing experience, should one invite the film in through the eyes and not over-think what one might perceive to be Weerasethakul’s intentions. Recalling one of his movie’s is like remembering a vivid dream, and the best cinema is indeed dreamlike. Dreams are said to be the symbolic interpretations of the life you lead, and like a dream, this movie invites the viewer to fill the amorphous spaces with their own experiences. This is a gift beyond measure. Walking out of the movie house after a film like Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is like waking from a deep trance and experiencing the world with supreme awareness.

It’s great to see this Palme d’Or winner from the 2010 Cannes Film Festival finally made it to Miami thanks to the Miami Beach Cinematheque. Catch it tonight or tomorrow or Tuesday night. Those are the only chances you will have to see this masterpiece.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives opens tonight and plays through Apr. 5 exclusively at the Miami Beach Cinematheque.

(Copyright 2011 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

The other day I received an email from the Vinyl Factory, one of the fanciest producers of vinyl records working today, announcing its upcoming release of none other than surrealist movie director David Lynch’s new electro-based single. The director of Blue Velvet recently signed a record deal with the UK-based indie label Sunday Best Recordings to release the record. The idea might sound strange, but the results are indeed Lynchian. The lead track, “Good Day Today” is dizzying in its warped, affected quality– from the repetitive lowering and rising volume of the backing synth to Lynch’s vocoder affected vocals (not to mention the beat recalls the “motorik” rhythms of many a Neu! track). Then, on “I Know,” Lynch sounds like some old blues lady backed by nasty, echoing bluesy guitar bursts that sound very familiar to the blues guitars that pop up on many of his films’ soundtracks. Click the titles of the songs to stream them on Soundcloud.

As far as the packaging, considering the triple gatefold 12-inch also includes a signed art print by famed album designer Vaughan Oliver, and a second slab of wax (its all on 180 gram vinyl) featuring remixes by “the finest electronic music producers of the past 20 years” (the site does not mention who), 30 quid ain’t that bad a price to pay. Some of the Vinyl Factory’s releases have been much more expensive and not as fancy.

Singing is something not all that new for Lynch. I first heard him sing a couple of years ago. in 2008, he did a song for his daughter, Jennifer Chambers Lynch’s second movie, Surveillance (2008). The song appeared briefly in the film and in its entirety during the film’s end credits. At first, I thought it was a new Neil Young song. Unfortunately, no soundtrack for the film exists, but you can hear “Speed Roadster” by clicking on the song’s title, right here.

Then Lynch sang probably the most moving song on the Danger Mouse / Sparklehorse collaboration Dark Night of the Soul (a soundtrack accompanying a book of Lynch-produced images). Long before the physical release of the album you could hear the songs in an interactive “pop-up” Flash-based website. As the album hung in legal limbo that website was the only place to hear some of the songs. The website is still live, and, with a little hunting, you can hear Lynch’s track … OK, I’ll reveal where to find it: Drag the screen over to your left where some cops are hosing down a man in his underwear and laughing. Iggy Pop’s pummeling “Pain” should be snarling among the image-scape. Once you endure that noisy assault, the much more melancholic sparkles of “Star Eyes (I Can’t Catch It)” filled with chirps of twinkling electronic burbles should begin. That’s Lynch singing, sounding not too different from a mellowed out Wayne Coyne of Flaming Lips fame (Coyne also has a song on Dark Night of the Soul, btw).

Of course, Lynch has been messing with experimental music for many years. He often painstakingly works on the sonic atmosphere of his films, which clearly add another level of creepiness to his scenes. But, as far as I can recall, this singing career is a new thing for Lynch. Let me know of any other songs he may have sung. All that I have heard so far have been very interesting.

(Copyright 2010 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)