And Everything Is Going Fine
After the death in 2004 of American theater actor and monologist Spalding Gray, director Steven Soderbergh pieced together a narrative of Gray’s life to create the documentary And Everything Is Going Fine. Brilliantly and sensitively assembled entirely from footage of Gray, taken from interviews and one-man shows from throughout his career, it is a rich, full portrait—an autobiography of sorts—of a figure who was never less than candid but retained an air of mystery.
Steven Soderbergh’s And Everything is Going Fine is presented on DVD in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this dual-layer disc. Since the film is presented in the standard aspect ratio it has not been enhanced for widescreen televisions. It should also be noted that the picture has not been windowboxed.
Director Steven Soderbergh and editor Susan Littenberg have put this film together using footage taken of Spalding Gray over the years, all of which comes from both analog and digital video sources. No new footage was shot. So in terms of overall video quality we’re limited by what the source has to offer.
Unfortunately since most of the film is made up from footage from analog video sources, either BETA or VHS by the looks of it, most of the film looks like you’re watching a video tape. The image is noisy, can look fuzzy, and is littered with all sorts of artifacts. Interlacing is an issue and we get all sorts of ghosting and trailing effects with quick movements. Some video segments also look heavily pixelated, more than likely because it’s a poor video source. The digital segments do look a bit better, if only because they look a bit sharper than the analog scenes. Colours also look a little better. Surprisingly blacks are pretty strong throughout the entire film, looking fairly deep and rarely drown out details.
In comparison to Criterion’s Blu-ray version of the film I’d say the transfers are pretty much identical, not surprising since the Blu-ray is essentially presenting an upscaled version of the film. I switched back and forth between the DVD (upscaled by my equipment I should note) and Blu-ray to see if I could detect a difference between them and I couldn’t. This wasn’t surprising for the scenes comprised of analog video, but I did think it was surprising I couldn’t detect any difference between the digital sequences. I expected to maybe find the DVD was a bit noisier during the digital scenes but this wasn’t the case: the noise level looked the same between the two. It’s possible on bigger screens (my TV is 46”) the noise levels differ but I honestly couldn’t detect a difference.
Overall, for what the film is, its presentation is fine here. It looks about as good as one can expect.
Criterion delivers the film’s audio in Dolby Digital 1.0 mono, and like the video it’s also limited by the source. It’s as flat and lifeless as can be but you can make out the dialogue without issue, and ultimately that’s the most important aspect of a film like this.
I also couldn’t detect a difference between this track and the lossless track on the Blu-ray.
This isn’t a loaded special edition but in the end I do have to admit I found it to be, for lack of a better word, “complete.”
Making And Everything is Going Fine is a 21-minute collection of interviews with director Steven Soderbergh, producer Kathleen Russo, and editor Susan Littenberg. It turns out to be a great little piece about the making of the film, along with more personal reflections from the participants about Gray. Russo was married to Gray and talks a little about the final couple of years of his life after a life changing accident in Ireland that resulted in brain damage for the actor/writer. She says he seemed different but was still working hard, trying to come up with material for this recent event in his life, and, most importantly, seemed happy. It wasn’t until after 9/11 where he obviously fell into a deep depression and never recovered from it. Soderbergh also talks about the Gray he knew and his regret over disappearing from his life after the accident. Everyone then gets into details about how this film came together. Russo approached Soderbergh who agreed to do it (though he admits it was probably out of guilt for dropping from his life) and Soderbergh talks about the planning behind the film. He admits he considered doing a more conventional documentary, maybe something along the lines of what Errol Morris would do, mixing in interviews, new footage, possible reenactments, along with archival footage of Gray, but that he then decided the film would be done with Gray’s own voice. It was here that Soderbergh decided to just make the film up of recorded footage of the man. The task then fell upon Littenberg to go through over 90-hours’ worth of footage and construct something from that. It was while the footage was whittled down where it came to be that the film would be Gray, through his monologues and interviews, talking about his life one final time. Despite this feature being another simple talking-heads piece it’s an incredibly fascinating recount of the man and this project, definitely worth viewing after seeing the film.
Criterion next includes video footage shot in 1982 of one of Spalding Gray’s performances of his first monologue, Sex and Death to Age 14. If And Everything is Going Fine is supposed to be Gray’s final word it only seems fitting that this DVD presents Gray’s first monologue, what started it all. The performance apparently changed over time, Gray recording his performances, watching them later, and tweaking them where he saw fit, but as I understand it the final possible version of the monologue is still similar to what we get here. The 64-minute piece, appearing in poor video quality, presents Gray, sitting at his desk with a glass of water of course, talking in the stream-of-conscious way he does about his early life and the subject of sex and death, as he understood it then. It’s a very funny and, as always, surprisingly energetic piece. It’s a great, very thoughtful inclusion on Criterion’s part. A lot of footage from this was also used in And Everything is Going Fine.
The disc unfortunately pretty much ends there, though, concluding with a theatrical trailer for the film. I rented this disc so I did not receive the booklet but my understanding is that the DVD will present a similar booklet to what is supplied with the Blu-ray. That booklet presents a nice if not overly thorough essay by Nell Casey. But it also presents a photo of what I assume is one of Gray’s notebooks and then various photos of the man.
Since there was apparently 90-hours of material of Gray to sift through there was obviously more footage for Criterion to add, especially more interview footage, but I suspect it was chosen not to include this, allowing the film to say what it has to say about Gray, his work, and his life, and leave it at that. At most we get a decent recount on the making of the film and Gray’s first monologue, and with the main feature this release nicely rounds out the man, and in the end it feels “complete”.
Criterion has put together a nice edition for the film. The supplements are not plentiful but I felt satisfied with what we get. The transfer is limited by the source materials but I think it looks about as good as it possibly can here on DVD. As to which version one should pick up, the DVD or Blu-ray, it will probably come down to personal preference. Since the film is made up primarily of NTSC 480i footage the transfers between the DVD and Blu-ray look identical, at least when the DVD is upscaled. If you’re looking to save money then the cheaper DVD may be the one to go with.