Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (2008)

(In theaters, September 2008) Hunter S. Thompson fans are in for a treat with this documentary that unearths a number of archival clips to follow “The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson” from beginning to end –with an explosive epilogue. Talking head footage with people ranging from Tom Wolfe to Johnny Depp and Jimmy Carter is inter-cut with archival footage of Hunter’s life and film interviews to present a coherent but too-short overview of a remarkable rabble-rouser. Thompson fans will be surprised to see archival footage of, say, Thompson’s appearance on a televised game show following the release of his books on the Hell’s Angels. Those who know nothing about Thompson will be served with stories of his worst excesses, his prodigious appetite for drugs and guns, his prankster instincts (including the politically-significant Ibogaine incident) and the particular nature of his prose, read off-screen by Johnny Depp. Thompson’s latter-year decline is discussed but not dwelt upon, a compromise probably made necessary by his suicide. The film is bold enough to suggest that the act was one of cowardice, but viewers will be left to make their own conclusions. The nature of the character is such that any simple film is bound to be disappointing: too many stories left unmentioned, and too quick an overview to really satisfy those who want more. But this documentary is still a bright spot in an otherwise meaningless cinema landscape: I’m glad I caught it in theaters.

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