Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Gonzo (2008)

The life and times of Hunter S Thompson.

Made in the wake of Thompson's suicide it's full of talking heads and film clips of the man and his friends. It's an oral appreciation of Thompson and his work.

I'm a fan of Hunter's. I had been reading his material for years by the time he shook off the mortal coil and moved on. In the wake of his passing there were several looks at the man, his life and his legacy. Probably the best is the book that was an expanded version of the Rolling Stone tribute piece on Thompson. It's a full bore, soup to nuts look at everything the man was, including his ability to be an absolute asshole on more than one occasion. This film is a spin off of that book.

Simply by the fact that the film runs only two hours and is limited in what it has time to show this is a very good look at the man and his work. Starting essentially with the Hell's Angel's the film marches you through the life of Thompson and it's work. If you've ever wanted to see more of Thompson than just the crazed Dr Gonzo this film is for you since the film has very little of the crazed Hunter, most of what we see here is the quiet and controlled Hunter.

The best part of the film is that it shows us footage from parts of his life that most of us have only read about. I loved the stuff from his Aspen Sheriff run and some of the odd moments that you would have thought would never have been documented. I also liked that you really got this sense of place and time of what was going on with Thompson and the country.

On the other hand, those looking for a detailed look at Thompson and his life are going to be disappointed. This is a friendly look at the man and his writing, but it's somewhat limited in it's focus. Huge swaths of events are not covered or are only alluded to. Actually a huge portion of the film is focused on the two Fear and Loathing books (Las Vegas and Campaign Trail) and the rest of his life is given the short shrift (As I said the film starts with the Hell's Angels book and leaves out the first 30 or so years of his life. And as for his decline after the failed attempt to cover the Muhammad Ali fight in Zaire, and the rest of the final 30 years of his life it's reduced to 15 minutes. It's not really fair since enough happened to fill out a bit more time than 15 minutes.

Ultimately this is a starting place to get to know the man and not really the be all and end all of documentaries on the subject. To really get to know the man one should probably read a book, the aforementioned Gonzo is probably the best place for that. Then again I don't think one could really do a conventional documentary on the man, certainly not one that wasn't at least four or five hours long since there is simply too much to Hunter to get right in a short period of time.

I really liked this film a a great deal. It's a great place to start to get to know the man the myth and the legend.

Currently out on DVD

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