Friday, July 13, 2007

Swimming to Cambodia

Swimming to Cambodia (Johnathan Demme, 1987) [9]

Spalding Gray is a fantastic storyteller. That's what makes this film successful. A filmed monologue more than not would be pretty boring unless the person talking can keep your attention. Gray does this not by being over-dramatic but by being able to blend the various threads of his monologue into something that is funny, entertaining, and enlightening. He can go from the somber history of Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge genocide to his own self-aggrandized film role to the seedy sexual underworld of Thailand as cleanly and easily as anyone could. What also works in this film's favor is that Demme doesn't attempt to do too much to punch up the film. It doesn't need anything beyond some occasional lighting and sound effects. The power of the film rests entirely with Gray's words. He places just the right amount of reverence and somber remembrance of the horrors that occurred in Cambodia with his own humorous personal experiences. Overall, it creates a film that while no means aesthetically adventurous, is something that was well worth viewing.

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