Marcey & A.J.’s September Blog-a-Thon – Week 2: Swimming To Cambodia

What’s a Blog-a-thon? This blog-a-thon is a challenge, its participants have chose films the other has not seen to watch and review.
September Blog-a-thon criteria: Hidden 80’s Gems
Why A.J. Chose This Film For Marcey: “It’s sad that I only became familiar with Spalding Gray shortly before his death in 2004. I saw what an amazing and effective storyteller he made in “Gray’s Anatomy,” inspiring me to seek out his other work on the spot. Although he’d been performing spoken word monologues for years, it was Jonathan Demme’s “Swimming to Cambodia” that really resonated with audiences and introduced a lot of people to the fascinating style in which Gray told the audience about his life. He was a fantastic talent who’ll continue to be missed, and “Swimming to Cambodia” is a great example of how absorbing he could be.”

Marcey’s Review: Until recently, I was quite unfamiliar with the monologues of the late Spalding Gray. I was however quite familiar with his acting work, having seen him in quite a few things including The Killing Fields which acts as the subject of this week’s Blog-a-thon Swimming To Cambodia. I was glad this was given to me to watch, what a perfect way to be introduced to Spalding the monologist. I am a big fan of The Killing Fields and it has been awhile since I last saw it, and for me there was no doubt that there were interesting stories to be told about it. Spalding opens up about a lot to do with the film as well as the subject at hand.

I usually like to give a synopsis of the film I am writing about but in this case I really can’t. It is an 84-minute film, of Spalding Gray on a stage, behind a desk, recounting many stories, he occasionally uses a map or two and footage is shown from The Killing Fields. It really is as simple as that in explaining this, but there is a lot going on, and many stories are told. In describing this, it really comes down to Spalding, and how he is just so captivating here, I was intrigued the entire time and I wasn’t able to look away. It also comes down to the great work of Jonathan Demme in his direction of this. His vision captures Spalding perfectly, and this was put together in just the right way. This is an experience, and my words I really don’t think do it justice.

Swimming To Cambodia is definitely a thought-provoking film, Gray recounts a lot of things, and none are more interesting and captivating than the ones about the real situations out there. He tells is about genocide, and doesn’t hold back in doing so. The film portions are fantastic as well, but the man really lights up when speaking the honest truth about the country and what happened. There are some theatrics at play, with music and sound effects played as he talks, and this certainly adds something to this spoken word stage performance. Gray really brings forth so much in the way he talks and engages, he was so great at that and it is something that obviously came naturally to him.

I really enjoy watching a great speaker give a monologue; I am always impressed if someone for longer than 10 minutes can captivate me. Spalding Gray impressed me, this film was impressive and on paper it seems like something that may not work, but it works fantastically. Demme has quite an eye as a director, and between Swimming To Cambodia and Stop Making Sense, I’ve really become quite appreciative of him. For me the King of spoken word has always been Henry Rollins, who for three hours straight kept me glued when I saw him live earlier this year. After experiencing Spalding Gray, I think he really was the Emperor of spoken word.

Once again I would like to thank A.J. for picking this film for me to watch, it was another unique viewing experience.


Head over to A.J’s website CINESLICE and read his Week 2 review of Suspect

3 thoughts on “Marcey & A.J.’s September Blog-a-Thon – Week 2: Swimming To Cambodia

  1. Pingback: “Suspect” (1987) « CineSlice

  2. I remember the first time that I watched this, my first of Gray’s films, while sitting on my bed one night. I thought I’ll just watch a bit to see what this thing is but then all of a sudden it was dark and it was minutes away from ending and he builds up to the part with the waves and… woah. It was one of those transcendental moments that movies can have, I don’t know why but it really got to me, so did reading the story of his death of Wikipedia.

    Ever since I’ve been a massive fan, own all his filmed monologues (and the recent Soderbergh doco) some extras on CD and his three books and all of them are amazing. If you want the books to read give me a yell as well. I think I’ll be off re-watching this movie.

    • Yeah I’ll definitely have to borrow some stuff off you. I need to re-watch The Killing Fields, he definitely made me want to re-visit it and I reallly want to see the documentary by Soderbergh.

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