Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Spalding Gray: Swimming to Cambodia (video)

WritersBlocPresents.com, Laemmle Theatres, Wisdom Quarterly

"I hadn't had a perfect moment yet. And it's very important for me to have perfect moments in exotic countries like that... It kind of lets you know when it's time to go home..."

"Look, I got a vision of myself by now as a kind of wandering bachelor mendicant poet, wandering all the way down the beaches of Malaysia eating magic mushrooms all the way as I went until I reach Bali and evaporate in a state of ecstasy in the sunset!"

"But I wasn't telling Renee that. But she could see that my will, or what was left of it, was beginning to vacillate.

"And we fell into a fight on the way to the party in the Gulf of Siam. And we were fighting all the way, and we got there, to the Gulf of Siam, and it was exquisite, you know?

Gulf of Siam (Thailand)

"Unlike The Hamptons, where you have a boat, and a bigger boat, and then a ship, and a bigger ship, and desire, and the carrot, and the carrot, and the carrot, and desire, and desire, and desire, and desire.

"There was nothing to buy out there in the Gulf of Siam. I mean it was like one big piece of calendar art.

"I just said, 'Look, look, look, Renee, look at this beautiful sunset!'

"...I might be able to have a perfect moment right now."

Spalding Gray's "Talking Cure" is not only one of the best one-man performances but actually one of the best films ever. "Swimming to Cambodia" is a Jonathan Demme-directed performance film (before "Silence of the Lambs" and "Philadelphia" but after "Stop Making Sense"). The film is a performance of Gray's monologue ("Talking Cure") which centers around themes like his trip to Southeast Asia to create the role of the U.S. Ambassador's aide in "The Killing Fields" and his search for a perfect moment.

"Swimming to Cambodia" was originally a theatre piece on which Gray worked for two years, and it won him an Obie award. The opening shots depict Gray walking toward The Performing Garage in New York. He goes in, walks past the audience, and takes his seat behind a table. On the table is a glass of water, a microphone, and a notebook. Behind him are two pull down maps. One is a map of Southeast Asia and the other is a diagram of the bombing of Cambodia, which Gray tells the viewers was called Operation Menu.

Spalding Rockwell Gray (1941-2004) was an American actor, playwright, screenwriter, performance artist, and monologist. He was primarily known for his "trenchant, personal narratives delivered on sparse, unadorned sets with a dry, WASP, quiet mania." Gray achieved notoriety for writing and acting in the play, which was adapted into a film.