Friday, October 5, 2012

#617: And Everything Is Going Fine

(Steven Soderbergh, 2010)

And Everything Is Going Fine is the rare biographical documentary that seems both impressively insightful about its subject and ingeniously constructed. Soderbergh manages to deliver this without shooting a single thing, as all the footage here is from Gray's life and career up until his death in the mid 2000s. In fact, Gray is practically the only person who talks through most of the movie, and the bulk of the film is constructed with Gray's performances on stage (which means this isn't necessarily a complete look at his actual life, but instead a carefully selected approximation of a facsimile - but a cool one).

One really smart choice Soderbergh makes is to tell the story chronologically - not in terms of when the footage was shot, but in terms of when whatever Gray is talking about actually happened in his life. So while the scenes shift from grainy VHS to film to an E! interview, the story goes in a straight line. (By the way, can you imagine someone like Spalding Gray being interviewed on E! today?) This keeps you engaged even as the footage ping pongs around his career.

One thing I didn't know that the film helped me understand was just how revolutionary Gray's act was. It seems like such a simple and natural thing - go on stage and tells unadorned stories about yourself - that you would think people had been doing it forever, and in some ways they were. But reducing it to such a basic equation made his work shockingly fresh. The fact that his perspective was so unique helped prevent others from easily replicating it. Although I already liked Gray thanks to Gray's Anatomy, this documentary made me appreciate him even more, making it a fine companion to that film. That Soderbergh was able to construct such a satisfying documentary makes its separate release justifiable.

A side note: This is the 400th movie I've posted about on this blog. It's been nearly three years since I started this journey (really more since I've been watching Criterion movies for virtually my entire adult life) and I have fewer than 60 movies left. Although this number continues to tick up every month when the new releases are announced, it has steadily decreased to the point where I can genuinely say the end is near. Based on my label count to the left of this post, I've considered 102 of the 400 movies I've reviewed to be "five star" films (this average is a bit inflated by movies I had seen before). Whatever that arbitrary measure is worth, that means just following the spine numbers has led me to more cinematic epiphanies than I could have ever imagined. If anyone is reading this out there, I hope I've pointed you towards something you might not have otherwise picked up that you loved, or at least gave you a different perspective on a movie you like that you hadn't considered. For me personally, the ability to go back and look at my initial thoughts on every film I've watched has been invaluable - this is a collection of writing I'll never stop returning to, and even though I love getting paid cold hard cash to write (ah, sweet cash), this certainly ranks with my books as the most satisfying works I've produced in my life to this point. All I can hope for now is to finally see this thing through to the end - hopefully with at least another 15 or so masterpieces waiting for me!

No comments:

Post a Comment