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Scott Ventura >> Movie Commentary >> March 2002 >> Monster in a Box

Monster in a Box

Movie Commentary by Scott Ventura


Scott's Rating:
4 / 5
Times Seen:
Viewing Date:
March 2002
IMDB Name:
Monster in a Box (1991)
Nick Broomfield
MPAA Rating:


It is exceedingly rare to find an audience that is a perfect match to my stories. Every once in a great while, I find that audience, and it's a wondrous thing. The rest of the time, I concern myself with setup-to-payoff ratios and winnowing out unnecessary details from my tales. There are those even rarer moments where I am able to tell the story with more than one layer, and they all add up and work out in the end. Spalding Gray is a man that has mastered storytelling. His monologues make you feel almost like he's talking directly to you, and in the room with you. The connection he establishes feels genuine and comfortable. Once he starts talking, there's just no way to stop listening. His stories, which run between eighty and ninety minutes, return magnificently from their tangents as though they'd never been taken. Punchlines are peppered throughout with a careful attention to the cycles of tension and release that make his style that much more addictive.

I saw Monster in a Box as part of a Spalding Gray night at a friend's place. I arrived too late for all but the very end of Swimming to Cambodia, I couldn't stomach the eye injury recollections that start Gray's Anatomy, but I loved the rest. It is a testament to Gray's power over his listeners that even watching three of his films in a row is not only possible, but enjoyable. The experience of watching these two films is what I expected to get out of My Dinner with André.

Monster in a Box was directed by documentarian Nick Broomfield. The style is extremely simple, with Gray most often seated behind a table with only his microphone and his Monster, a 1,900-page manuscript, before him. Gray is often looking directly into the camera and from not very far away, further amplifying the intimacy he has with his audience. Gray's style is not overtly visual, but Broomfield spices things up a bit with moving cameras and a little bit of lighting. Since the monologue stimulates the imagination more than the eyes, there's not much harm in the suggestions made this way. I was also impressed with the film editing by Graham Hutchings and the sound editing by Grant Maxwell. The transitions from cut to cut are visible, but the timing is perfect, maintaining Gray's speaking rhythm perfectly.

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Copyright 2002 by Scott Ventura. All rights reserved.