Swimming to Cambodia

Screening on Film
Directed by Jonathan Demme.
With Spalding Gray, Sam Waterston, Ira Wheeler.
US, 1987, 35mm, color, 85 min.

Outfitted with a glass of water, a pointing stick, and two maps, Spalding Gray launches into an 85-minute rant on his experiences playing a minor role in Roland Joffé’s The Killing Fields, digressing into Bangkok strip clubs, the US military-industrial complex, and a host of other tangents along the way. Alternating among the comic, didactic, and confessional, Swimming to Cambodia brought new life to the monologue film, a form perfected by Gray. Jonathan Demme sparingly documents Gray’s mono-mental odyssey with only a few well-timed lighting and sound cues, otherwise preserving the real-time feel of the event.

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