Walking to Anthology Film Archives, down a street that stank strongly and strangely of Lipton soup, I was struck with a craving for a caramel macchiato, but I never thought a Starbucks would be so hard to find in that part of New York City. It makes sense when you think about it, and as the cold nipped my hands, I thought of CBGB—now gone but its doors still open when I passed it—having kept Starbucks away all these years. (With Mars Bar still kicking, if not necessarily screaming, does that mean the area is safe for a little while longer from the coffee chain’s intoxicating pull?) After backtracking and finally finding a Starbucks, I ran back down to Anthology Film Archives past trailers for a motion picture shooting in the area and thought that at least Hollywood was unafraid of slumming this far downtown. I pulled on the door and, finding it locked, peered inside for a publicist. A man approached and, after opening the door, I could see that it was Crispin Glover. “Hello,” he said, kindly but without introduction. Already I could tell this was going to be a surreal morning.
Glover’s appearance took me by surprise, but that was only because I hadn’t read the press release for the film thoroughly. Glover was there not only to introduce his first film, 72 minutes of avant garde madness that recalls everything from Un Chien Andalou and The Holy Mountain to Even Dwarfs Started Small and the collected works of David Lynch, but to narrate “The Big Slide Show,” a collection of text and illustrations from the man’s books, which include Concrete Inspections, Rat Catching, The Backward Swing, and Round My House. Standing on the stage, his body obscured by darkness except for the part of his face that caught the light from the projector, Glover looked like Hannibal Lecter reading from pages of novels styled in the tradition of Southern fictions and early-20th-century medical journals. My eyes darting back and forth between the screen and Glover’s face, I would sometimes catch the actor’s gaze in this small room of maybe two dozen people. Damn if there’s any through line to follow here—all I can remember is something about rats, a dog named Sal, a “negroid” slave, a trial, and a backstabbing friend by the name of Tom Wiswell—but the actor’s “performance” is so convincing it invites surrender.