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Gonzo to the edges of reporting

by Archives October 7, 2008

“Sixty-seven. That is 17 years past 50. Seventeen more than I needed or wanted,” wrote Hunter S. Thompson in a suicide note to his second wife.
Thompson ended his life in February of 2005 at his farmhouse in Woody Creek, Colorado. He left behind years of articles written for Rolling Stone, The Nation, Sports Illustrated, and several other publications.
On that cold February day, the life of a revolutionary and self-described “freak” ended.
But through his articles and books – Thompson published a number of novels, most notable of which are Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 – this author was able to give life to a new genre of non-fiction writing – gonzo journalism, a style rich in fantasy and first-person stories, that treated the farce of modern life as just that, and which stuck the author at the very centre of the article.
Alex Gibney’s documentary Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson manages to stitch together Thompson’s acid infused and whiskey saturated career into a well-rounded story.
Narrated by Johnny Depp, the movie uses a combination of interviews, archival footage from talk shows and home movies, tape recordings and actor recreations to examine the pivotal events of Thompson’s life and career; from being imbedded in the California chapter of the Hell’s Angels to covering the 1972 American election trail with presidential candidate George McGovern. The range of interviewed personalities is also impressive – Gibney talks to a number of people Thompson became involved with through his work, including Thompson’s first wife, his widow, his son, close friend and illustrator Ralph Steadman, and Jann S. Wenner, editor and publisher of Rolling Stone.
Gibney carefully selects the soundtrack from an era of icons – Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, and Jefferson Airplane – whose lead singer, Grace Slick, was once a crush of Thompson’s – are all present. The soundtrack’s pairing with particularly moving footage of demonstrations throughout the 60’s and 70’s gives the impression people did care about politics, the war, and the country – all the topics Thompson found important.
The film looks at the best of Thompson’s career; the golden age. And his worst; the slippery slope into fame and addiction.
Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson will open Oct. 10 at the AMC Forum.

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