Recommended Viewing Situation:
Sitting down for breakfast and ordering…
‘Four Bloody Marys, two grapefruits, a pot of coffee, Rangoon crepes, a half-pound of sausage, bacon, or corned beef hash, a Spanish omelette or eggs Benedict, a quart of milk, a chopped lemon for random seasoning, slice of Key lime pie, two margaritas, and six lines of the best cocaine for dessert’…
Then realizing printing the myth is always better than the truth.
Running Time: 118 minutes.
Format: Mixed stock footage and Digital Video.
Director: Alex Gibney.
Writer: Alex Gibney (screenplay), Hunter S. Thompson (writings).
Cinematographer: Documentary footage various.
Awards: Nominated Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize.
‘When the going gets weird the weird turn pro’
A personal mantra of journalist Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. The good Doctor was arguably the inventor of gonzo journalism (along with Tom Wolfe) and had a colourful life to say the least. Touring with the Hell’s Angels, witnessing the 1968 Chicago riots, traveling to; then missing the ‘Rumble in the jungle’, running for mayor of Aspen and chatting alone with Richard Nixon while he was on the campaign trail. It seems that most of the pivotal points in the 60’s and 70’s had a strange talisman, with a cigarette in hand and a manic intensity for writing.
I was a little worried when I heard that Alex Gibney was putting together a Thompson documentary. Hunter’s fans can be guilty of a little hero worship, ignoring the darker; less flattering parts of his life and concentrating on Hunter the cartoon character and not his keen mind and penetrating writing.
Narrated in part by Johnny Depp the documentary starts with Hunter’s words from the morning of September 11th 2001, Shots from Hunter’s home, old photographs and stock footage are recreated and blended together with actors and period props. This isn’t a Titicut Follies style documentary where the viewer simply views raw footage and take from it what they will, there is a real effort on Gibney’s part to inject a style in the vignettes between interview segments.
The 1960’s and 70’s were Hunter’s most creative and lauded period, so these digressions into psychedelia, scratched 8mm film and archive footage really help set a manic mood; indicative of the nature of the man and the era. Interviewees range from the founder of Rolling Stone, the head of the Hell’s Angels and insiders of the Nixon government, a microcosm of the time.
While the documentary is a catharsis for HST fans, they would find more information on the Hunter the man with other documentaries produced like ‘Buy the ticket, take the ride’ and ‘Breakfast With Hunter’
The merits of the film as a documentary cannot be missed, it seems Gibney wanted to create an elegy or lament for fans of Thompson. While they won’t find new material or revelations it’s a fitting send-off. Fast, frenetic and confusing in parts, considered, funny and prophetic in others.