“We’re supposed to hear this,” listless, mink-coated king Crispin whines to no one in particular, leaning over a portable turntable and anointing Johnny Rebel’s redneck blues “Some Niggers Never Die (They Just Smell That Way).” Beside him, an arcadian forest nymph wearing a monkey mask squats on a watermelon and masturbates a bespectacled nude man in a giant clamshell while a porcelain Shirley Temple looks down from a kitschy white cloud. No wonder she’s biting her lip.
What Is It? Indeed, that is the question. And what to do with it? Not surprisingly, Sundance set aside the graveyard slot (midnight, final Friday) for Crispin Hellion Glover’s opus. Hellion (he reserves his middle name to signal fulsome self-expression) seems just as perplexed as the rest of us; for all that, he’s ensconced on a throne, a broody dictator-director halfway between Orson Welles’s Macbeth and Laurence Olivier’s Richard Crookback.
If these scenes suggest a cut-price Derek Jarman doing cut-price Fellini, amateur dramatics involving a cast of mentally retarded thespians having sex and bashing each other over the head with heavy objects recall Harmony Korine’s far superior, but equally maudit, Gummo. Then there’s the minstrel, “Michael Jackson,” who injects himself with snail enzymes. Snails do not prosper in Glover’s garden. Variously salted, squashed, and decapitated, they intermittently muster an anthropomorphic scream courtesy of actress Fairuza Balk.
A mock primitive, Glover conflates sexual and bio-racial hysteria. Perhaps he’s genuinely alarmed by the specter of resurgent fascism, or perhaps he’s just attracted to whatever residual shock value might be culled from swastikas, Charlie Manson songs, and Shirley Temple’s clit. His film is an atrocity, but honestly, who would have it any other way? In any case, the ripely droll end credits vow a follow-up: “It is Fine. Everything is Fine.”