Spalding Gray was an American literary raconteur primarily known for his monologues, with which he toured like any stand-up comedian, and which too were committed to film (the Criterion Collection has followed up this film with Gray’s Anatomy in its list of releases). This in certain respects is like those — it’s a film narrated entirely by Gray in clips from his monologues, interviews and other on-stage events — but instead it tries to tell the story of his life from beyond the grave (he committed suicide in 2004). It’s a way of a telling a life story without resorting to familiar stand-bys like the talking head interview or archival footage (written texts on screen, photos and the like), and makes this final testament to the man more like one of his own works, and that makes sense given the involvement of his widow and son (who does the music). It all zips by rather nicely, and gives you a sense of him as a public figure and hints towards himself as a private individual too, about some of the life issues he was going through (which always would be grist to his monologuing, but became more fractured as a source after his debilitating injury sustained on holiday in Ireland). It’s a work that’s evidently made with love, and that shows.
- There’s a nice little piece with interviews with producer (and Gray’s widow) Kathie Russo, as well as the film’s editor Susan Littenberg (for once not a pseudonym for the director and an actual person) and director Steven Soderbergh explaining the genesis of the idea and how the film came together. Nice to hear from them all about the project, and about the choices made in telling it. Turns out, for a man who chronicled his life and experiences for his art, there was plenty to choose from.
FILM REVIEW: Criterion Collection
Director Steven Soderbergh; Starring Spalding Gray; Length 89 minutes.
Seen at home (Blu-ray), Melbourne, Thursday 16 February 2023.