Spalding Gray sits behind a desk throughout the entire film and recounts his exploits and chance encounters while playing a minor role in the film The Killing Fields. At the same time, he gives a background to the events occurring in Cambodia at the time the film was set.
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Some people prefer the Foo Fighters to Nirvana. I'm one of them. I also prefer 'Swimming to Cambodia' over 'The Killing Fields'. I have no personal connection to what happened in Cambodia. I have a personal connection with Mr. Gray, because of the way he tells the story. You get background details on Cambodia from his research which were much more interesting than that film. It's all about finding a connection.
STC has a minimalist, neurotic theatricality that translated into a New Yorker 'Talk of the Town' resident vibe which in 1987 made one divine: a dash of Joe Frank,a dollop of Saturday Night Live, a touch of the Wooster Group, a sprinkle of St. Mark's or the 92nd St Y--then, stir in a few drops of confessional diarist and we have one uniquely gifted to tell his and
our tales. Spalding Gray did that very well.
"Swimming" is my least-favorite of the filmed Spalding Gray monologues, but I say that in the same way "The Dark Knight Rises" is my least-favorite "Dark Knight Trilogy" film: it's not the best, but it's still clearly the work of a master. While this monologue as a whole is more random and less narratively sound than his later pieces, the individual stories told within are golden, as is Gray's ability to tell them.