Brent Green is talking enthusiastically about a scene in Werner Herzog's 2009 film My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? "The guy has a coffee cup that says 'Razzle Dazzle' on it. And at some point he realizes ... that's the point: 'razzle them, dazzle them.'"
Pennsylvania-based Green will screen his first feature film Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then tonight at DiverseWorks, and the work definitely embodies the old-fashioned razzle dazzle. Green is a self-taught animator whose short films take a year to finish. Green doesn't use a digital process, but his attention to detail produces a flickery visual style that's completely original and remarkably fluid. He also narrates and performs the musical score. The Village Voice called Green "An emerging Orson Welles of handmade experimental cinema." For Gravity, Green built a town in his backyard--five houses, a handmade working piano, a huge glowing moon, and "a giant, wooden, fully functioning God," as Art In America described it in a review. "It took a year and a half," he says.Gravity
uses stop-motion as well, but this time with real people. It's the true story of Leonard Wood, a Kentucky man whose wife, Mary, is stricken with cancer. Wood decides to rebuild their home into a "healing machine" to save Mary's life. And Leonard doesn't stop building, even after Mary dies. Eventually, Wood is forced to sell the home to pay his nursing-home bills after he falls off the roof still trying to complete the healing machine. OK, that's one of the most heartbreaking things we've ever heard.
For this stint at DiverseWorks, Green created a site-specific installation to augment the film thematically.
"This is gonna sound high-falutin' for something that looks like a pop-up book in a children's circus," says Green, "but I think that in our society right now we nearly constantly overlook the things that make our society really interesting in exchange for paying attention to and celebrating, like, Jersey Shore." Green points to a rendering on cardboard of the forgotten woman who sewed the spacesuit for Laika, the dog launched into space by the Soviets. Now wouldn't we rather hear her story?
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Green feels that people like Wood, whose story is exceptional, are often sadly ignored. "Like Vic Chesnutt sold 106,000 records in his entire career, and he was a genius, and he was recognized by the state of Georgia as a state treasure," Green says, "and then he was 50 grand in medical debt when he killed himself. We live in a society that will recognize Vic as a state treasure but won't help him out of medical debt." Instead, says Green, we reward the things that exploit us.
(Excuse us while we get a tissue.)
Opens Tonight, Friday, November 5, 6-9 pm (Special live music performance with Donna K at 7:30 pm), DiverseWorks, 1117 East Freeway. 713-223-8346
(Green's short film Hadacol Christmas)