Permanent Green Light is a film written and co-directed by Dennis Cooper and Zac Farley. It is indeed THE Dennis Cooper, who was one of the most controversial writers of the ’90s due to a series of novels about paedophilia, teenage sexuality, drug use and punk rock. His style mixes the detached L.A. cool of Bret Easton Ellis with the dreamlike logic of William S. Burroughs and the depravity of Marquis De Sade. This film, however, bears the very heavy influence of French auteur Robert Bresson, primarily his film The Devil, Probably.
It’s a film that is very much about escape, in this case concerning a young French man, Roman (Benjamin Sulpice), who decides to escape in the most self-destructive way humanly imaginable, which is blowing himself up with explosives. He isn’t driven by ideology nor any burning desire to commit suicide, just wants to “blow up.” The Devil, Probably is similar in that it’s a film about a young Parisian man who rejects all forms of ideology, religion, etc., and at the end decides to commit suicide by paying a junkie to shoot him. Cooper has acknowledged the influence from Bresson’s film.
The world depicted is of detached, good-looking young men moping around. There is a girl, however, who is key to the way the events unfold. The man who wants to escape is completely disinterested in everything, including sex. His sexuality is never clear: he seems to be gay but rebuffs a male friend’s advances; he also seems to have connected to the girl earlier in the film, but it doesn’t matter in the end. It’s a film about feeling alienated by the world around you and trying to evade that alienation by any means necessary. This placed alongside what seems to be a strong sense of friendship between the young men, which makes the final moments even more shocking.
The film is as mysterious as Roman’s motives, and is shot in a simple but beautiful way. It’s shot almost exclusively outdoors in an incredibly bland but bright palette, which is an interesting juxtaposition with the dark subject matter. If you needed another reason to see the film, John Waters listed it in his top ten of 2018, which is enough of an endorsement. Given the nature of the project, Permanent Green Light’s release will be limited, but it’s getting screenings here and there, and in the US there is a Blu-Ray release this week. If you are in Glasgow on the 2nd of May, there is a screening of the film with the filmmakers doing a Q&A.