Dennis Cooper and Zac Farley's Permanent Green Light (2018) is showing July 19 – August 17, 2019 on MUBI in the United States.
Permanent Green Light was inspired by our fascination with the phenomenon of inexplicable deaths—demises whose circumstances and/or causes are so mysterious and incongruous that their surrounding factors attain the power to override the death's emotional and psychological impact—where the victim's passing becomes obscured by the lack of a rational explanation and is transformed into an act of magic.
In Permanent Green Light, the protagonist Roman is in his late teens, physically disabled due to a recent accident, introverted and eccentric but happy and interested in his life. He becomes obsessed with how, when an apartment building collapses, presumably with inhabitants inside, or when a ship full of passengers sinks, the deaths of those inside become so complicated to parse emotionally that they're more advantageously interpreted as power sources for the event's charismatic, startling overall effect. Over the course of the film, his fascination with this conundrum evolves. He begins to understand that his presence and his friendship are the only powers he possesses, and he gradually figures out a way to use them as a hook for something greater and more visceral than himself.
As in our first film Like Cattle Towards Glow, Permanent Green Light is interested in finding a way to represent emotion at its deepest, most confused, and inexpressible pitch. In Like Cattle Towards Glow, the private emotions we sought to materialize were related to the character's consuming but secretive sexual desires. In Permanent Green Light, we study the emotional effect of death, both deaths whose influence is compounded by a personal familiarity with the deceased as well as deaths whose effects are distanced by their status as photographs or news stories or urban myths.
Articulating incommunicable feeling, particularly as regards desire and death, is a subject we have both studied with great care and attention, Zac by visualizing it through the use of faces, bodies, landscapes, and abstractions, and Dennis in his novels, which concern transparent fictional characters and employ simple but complexly layered language. The medium of film has presented us with an opportunity to combine this shared interest and intermix our concurring, differently abled talents.
In Permanent Green Light, we present a world and a set of characters that appear wholly realistic but whose freedom to digress in their feelings, imaginative leaps, and actions are as otherworldly as in a science-fiction. The setting, a French suburb constructed in the utopian and hopeful 1970s but now unmaintained and regarded nonchalantly, is a giant set, foreign and ahistorical, where the characters can live the way they want, transcending issues of class, nation, period.
The characters, played either by non-actors or actors whose techniques have been muted, are not based on broad ideas of personality types nor designed to interact in the expected, short-cutting ways employed by conventional narrative films. The characters are more thoughtful and intriguing than example-like and expositional. They think and feel and muse together, speaking only when communicating verbally seems like a necessity. Time passes in an authentic, lifelike way, but its motion is generated by the characters' need to finish what they're thinking and doing, such that time seems to cling to them and their surroundings like a fog.
As the characters coincide with and attempt to make sense of their friend's "suicidal" project, they unfold before the viewer through the film's close attention to their anxieties, curiosities, affections, obsessions, and ambivalences. The film explores and hopes to enunciate an internal logic in which their behavior will "make sense" even as it goes against what, in a world more wholly realistic and affected by the factors of religion, morality, and decorum, would seem merely self-destructive and preventable. Roman's final act, and its success or not, is tenable through the visible shift it causes in what viewers have come to understand of his friends' internal worlds rather than being presented as something that can be judged by the film or viewers in an external, conclusive and understandable way. Although Roman's goal to erase his own humanity through a cloud of ingenuity and sensationalism is doomed, our film creates a chance for him to succeed.
—Dennis Cooper and Zac Farley