Review: Gray’s Anatomy (1996)

gray's anatomy

A genre of film I’m not familiar with, but a director I know very well!

Monologue By: Spalding Gray & Renée Shafransky
Directed By: Steven Soderbergh

A man sits in a chair and talks, and talks, and talks. There are a few cutaways to interviews with other people, but those interviews are short and take up very little time in the grand scheme of the movie. A monologue film is exactly that, a film where a subject presents a monologue. In Gray’s Anatomy the man presenting the monologue is Spalding Gray, and the man filming the monologue is Steven Soderbergh, and they appear to be quite the ideal match.

Mr. Gray is a fascinating interview. He has an eloquence and way of articulating his words that easily engages me as a viewer. Simply put, once Mr. Gray started talking I needed to hear the rest of what he had to say. He’s able to find a compelling mixture of surreal and heartfelt reality. I’m not sure how he does it exactly, but he takes what is a dire topic and infuses it with humor, over the top surrealism, and always has a ping of tender honesty to his words. I loved listening to Mr. Gray talk, on any topic he broached, and on that aspect alone Gray’s Anatomy is one fine picture.

Mr. Soderbergh is present to accentuate the monologue of Mr. Gray. To that end Mr. Soderbergh has a field day with changing color tone, switching from color to black and white, using background imagery and movement, and so on and so forth. I can understand someone coming away from Gray’s Anatomy thinking of Mr. Soderbergh’s visual flare as annoying and distracting. I wouldn’t agree, but I could, at the very least, understand. For me, the visual flare of Mr. Soderbergh was a near perfect complement to the monologue of Mr. Gray. He isn’t just toying with the visuals,. rather he’s using the visuals to heighten and match what Mr. Gray is saying at any given moment. For instance, when Mr. Gray brings his voice down and is attempting to relate to the viewer on a ground level the visual flare fades out and all that is left is a steady close-up of Mr. Gray’s face. When Mr. Gray is ranting and raving in a way that puts the focus on the fantastical then Mr. Soderbergh pushes Mr. Gray away from the viewer and surrounds, sometimes takes over, the image of Mr. Gray with correlative visual imagery.

I’m not sure if I’ll be in any rush to check out more movies from the monologue genre. Gray’s Anatomy feels, to me at least, like it’s a special effort. Having Mr. Soderbergh as the director pushes the film beyond being just a monologue driven film. The monologue is still the focus, but it’s focus is heightened because of the visuals that accompany Mr. Gray’s words. Either way, Gray’s Anatomy is an engaging and compelling moment in time with a great storyteller. I’m always up for a great story, and Gray’s Anatomy hit just the right spot when it comes to telling a story with visual flare.

Rating:

***1/2

Cheers,
Bill

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