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Spalding's 'Swimming to Cambodia' defies the preconceptions often brought to a movie: we get to see one man at a desk, with a lamp and a glass of water, and a map of Cambodia with a pointer to help. And then Gray's amazing ability to hook the listener into his amazing free improvised anecdotes makes it worth a thousand blockbusters. Demme's film prior to this was 'Something Wild'... this is wilder and wittier. Do yourself a favour and watch. Spalding's tragic suicide last year brings a poignant edge to many of his existential observations, but this is uplifting, entertaining, funny and harrowing all in one. And it's a monologue. Sam Shephard once said it was impossible to compare anyone to Spalding, so unique was he. Here's the proof.
Spalding Gray calls his version of performance art a "talking cure." The facts, opinions, insights, fears and hopes drawn from the epiphany he received from his experiences in the Asian Rim shooting "The Killing Fields" and his education of the plight of the Cambodian people circa early to mid seventies is overwhelming. This is a story of the human condition as told by a master. He is Dr. Frankenstein creating the monster that is ourselves through a tapestry of wordplay that never seems overwrought or cumbersome in the slightest. This movie is one man reading from a standard notebook, behind a plain table accented with a glass of water and shadowed by a ceiling fan and selection of maps. Demme's use of lighting and Laurie Anderson's soundtrack provide all the dramatic power needed to sustain Gray as he literally helps us all better understand life, humanity and our responsibilities to each other while we spend time on this planet. Intense, funny, heartbreaking and invigorating; this movie inspires and changes all who watch it.
Swimming to Cambodia, is deep, insightful and hillarious.
You are caught up in Gray's fast paced account of his time in Thailand and boston and New York and god only knows how many other places, the whole experience is enhanced by the fabulous play on lighting, music and camerawork. You'll find yourself either leaning forward, swept up in the rythum of his speech, and the depth of both detail and insight. or sagging back in your chair as you catch your breath, or on the brink of tears, or clutching your sides as you laugh.
I gave this film a ten, and i'm not easily impressed.
watch this film with friends or on your own as it's perfect for either. But be sure watch it more than once, as it will never get old.
Spalding Gray is an amazing orator. They way he can interweave various story aspects into a narrative patchwork is riveting. As you can tell I'm a big fan of his work and this is probably his best. Directed by Jonathan Demme in a no frills to the bone style. The star of this concert isn't demme or gray, it's the elocution.
It doesn't get much lower-budget than this: A guy sitting at a desk on a stage with a notebook, a pointer, and a map of Cambodia on the wall behind him. And for an hour-and-a-half, he keeps you absolutely mesmerized, by doing little more than talking. The special lighting, cinematography, musical effects, and odd film inserts that Demme's production brings to Gray's monologue (which, like so many of the films I truly love, was performed on a stage before it was brought to the screen) work ever-so-slightly to enhance the performance at certain points, but by and large this is just Spalding Gray, a wonderful story-teller, doing his thing. In terms of bang for your production buck, Swimming to Cambodia has to be right up there with The Blair Witch Project. A great film.
"Swimming to Cambodia" is an amazing piece of work. One of Spalding Gray's monologue pieces, it features him taking a story that seems like it should have been only mildly interesting and turning it into poetry. Directed by the incomparable Johnathan Demme and featuring music by the brilliant and eccentric Laurie Anderson, Gray recounts his experiences in the filming of "The Killing Fields." Gray's words tell of bizarre, disturbing, exciting and moving experiences in exotic locales. His words move from beautiful to disgusting, hopeful to horrifying, and always with a masterful lyricism that places him as one of the absolute masters of the English language! The book (published 1985) is supposed to be a great read, but the film of Gray himself telling the stories is an experience beyond compare. Spalding Gray's genius will be greatly missed.
I have to admit that the quote from his second video-monologue "I didn't think that I could listen to a person talk for an hour & a half, let alone a man" is the most honest statement I have heard about Spalding Gray. Although I have to admit that his later video-monologues (after Monster In A Box) lacked some of the intensity of his first two (that I am aware of), he has produced a fascinating body of work between his stints as a bit actor. Swimming to Cambodia is an amazing film that I could not dare ruin for those who dare to explore this wonderful, dark and detailed world that Spalding Gray opens up and offers to us to explore. Watch this film, if you dare.
Jonathan Demme is a genius, and if you doubt it, see this film. Who else
could've made a man sitting at a table talking so riveting? Although
Spalding is a great storyteller and great to see live, none of the other
films of his monologues have ever touched this one, the
See it and you'll never drink Singha again.
This thing is easily characterized as one-of-a-kind film, or at least I
didn't ever see a film that even gets close to its context, techniques or
style. Basicaly it's a raving, very funny monologue, but then again, much
more than this! In 85 mins. it manages to talk about so many matters both
serious and funny without making you be bored with it, at least if you 're
serious person, hehe :)
Of course these all are objective, but I loved it!
One day a couple of years ago, while I was waiting for a television show, I
was flipping through the channels and I caught part of Spalding Gray's
monologue film -Monster in a Box- and I was so blown away by it that I
missed the show that I had been waiting for. I don't know why it took me so
long to rent another one of his monologue films, but this week I picked up
his first one, -Swimming to Cambodia-. It was good, but nowhere near as good
as -Monster in a Box-.
For one thing, -Monster in a Box- was very well directed, and the "special effects" do not get in the way. But in -Swimming to Cambodia-, the sound effects are often too loud, and thecutting is too quick and artsy, when it should have been nothing but slow pans and zooms, sort of like -My Dinner With Andre-. Then there is this awful effect with the lights, basically shutting them off to cut the emotional rhythm. This was unneeded. Gray's performance itself establishes rhythm enough.
My second big complaint is with the monologue itself. It is mostly very interesting, but it is not polished or cohesive. Just as he does in -Monster in a Box-, Gray alternates between very hilarious narrative (such as the descriptions of the sex acts in Thailand) and very harrowing narrative (such as the descriptions of Pol Pot's revolution). That technique works extraordinarily in -Monster in a Box-, but the two halves of the narratives don't seem to do with each other at all. The funny half concerns the work on the movie -The Killing Fields-, and the harrowing half very intensely examines the true story of the Kamir Rouge and America's dealing with these kinds of situations. Also, the monologue seems to end almost arbitrarily.
This film is definitely worth a rental. It is under 90 minutes, which I always count as a plus. But if you want to be impressed, rent -Monster in a Box-. 7/10
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