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The Enduring Influence of Spalding Gray

by Anthony Kaufman
December 9, 2010 4:22 AM
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On the eve of Friday's release of "And Everything is Going Fine," Steven Soderbergh's excellent documentary portrait of monologist and actor Spalding Gray in his own words, the IFC Center will host a screening tonight of rare Gray media as part of "A Tribute to Spalding Gray," which will include "Terrors of Pleasure," a 60-minute Gray monologue; " A Life in Progress," a 1985 portrait; and a special trailer for Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s "Brother's Keeper," which consists of a brief Gray monologue. In attendance tonight will be Berlinger and producer Amy Hobby, who are among the long list of Gray admirers and collaborators who have been greatly effected by the storyteller's passing. On Saturday night, Andre Gregory and Laurie Anderson will show up for the 6:25pm show of "Fine."

When I spoke to directors Soderbergh, Nick Broomfield and Jonathan Demme for this Village Voice piece "The Spalding Gray Experience," I can't say I was surprised by the filmmaker's appreciation for Gray's work, but I was struck by the profound influence he had on them.

What didn't make it into my article reveals a deeper appreciation for the man and his work. Here are some more quotes below.

Steven Soderbergh: "When I saw Swimming to Cambodia, in the mid-80s, I hadn't written 'sex lies' yet, and I hadn't figured out what my voice was. The honesty of it was bracing and inspiring. And that kind of openness is really inspiring. It makes you believe that you can do that, and that's the best way to go. His belief in that, in the talking cure, is really infectious."

Soderbergh: "I find life very random and it's a struggle for me to make enough sense of it to keep getting up in the morning. And to hear someone articulate it the way he did was powerful for me as a person and as an artist."

Jonathan Demme: "He was a spectacularly attractive and appealing storyteller, he was sexy, very sexy, and such a brain; mainly he was just a tremendously compelling character. I would be a different person had I not spent that time, becoming very good friends with him. If you see 'Swimming to Cambodia' or any of the other film versions, every time you come away from him with the gift of great storytelling that much more deeply embedded in you."

Nick Broomfield: "Spalding had no problem laughing at himself and looking at his angst and inner turmoil and using it in a way that was both entertaining and illuminating and giving to an audience… I've often felt the impact of Spalding's mother's suicide on him. That was the monster in a box, after all. And more recently, my best friend committed suicide, and I have thought about thet monologue, and it certainly stayed with me.. He was incredibly vulnerable and incredibly there and he was creative enough to find a way of using that in an amazing way, which I so admired him for."

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