As an actor Gray had difficulty with other peoples words (there is one scene in 'The Killing Fields' they had to do 66 takes before he got it right) but his own flowed like liquid gold from his mouth with barely time to pause between the different incidents. Its easy to see that with his razor sharp analytical eye no single detail escapes him and he deconstructs each one to try to make some sense of everything. We the audience act as his therapists (he already has a professional one) and he pours out his seemingly uncensored thoughts as nothing is deemed off limits even if it means revealing the inner most personal facts/feelings/confidences of the people in his life. The fact that they continue to live with him after these performances is still somewhat of a mystery.
Another mystery (to me) is how this immensely articulate man so obviously so self absorbed, can yet somehow draw us all in and become so totally likable against all our natural instincts. The fact that there is a prevailing sense of sadness throughout the whole piece .... even in the funny stories ..... is another hook. He is unquestionably the most neurotic and hilarious storyteller that I have ever had the joy of listening too and watching.
Even back then, death was never far from his thoughts and a constance presence in his writing. His mother had committed suicide in 1967 after having a couple of nervous breakdowns, and Gray struggled with his own mental state his entire adult life. Somewhat obsessed with his sexuality, he had major relationships with three very strong woman ... each one overlapped the previous one ... and it looked like when he reluctantly became a father with Kathleen Russo his last amour, that he have found a stabling influence and a real shot at some normalcy and even happiness. But they were involved in a serious car accident whilst on vacation in Ireland from which he never completely recovered physically.
In 2004 after several aborted attempts Gray finally took his own life allegedly by jumping off the Staten Island Ferry. The tortured genus was just 62 years old.
In 2010 director Steven Soderbergh with his editor Susan Littenberg used the wealth of archive of Spalding Gray's work and performances to make a very intimate and highly personal portrait of this rather remarkable man 'And Everything Is Going Fine'. It was always Spalding Gray playing Spalding Gray : he made himself the art piece, the performance : warts and all. As we watch him age on screen, he makes no attempt to hide his severe bouts of depression that are now a major fixation. It somehow seems unnerving that as this tormented soul taps into this for his monologues that we should derive even the slightest sense at all of being anything else but disturbed by such public revelations.
I watched these movies (courtesy of Netflix) back to back because I very quickly became totally transfixed by the man and his words and in a matter of hours turned into a Spalding Gray junkie. As a passionate cinephile I am more than aware of the power of the silver screen, and in this case if it hadn't been for me finally starting to work through my 'bucket list' I would have never ever got to experience this rather magnificent sad man.
Next up it will be his books, and then I'll re-watch the films. If you havent seen either of these movies, than I urge you too. They are far too wonderful to be sitting on anyone's bucket lists.