Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Gonzo: The Life & Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

I had the opportunity to check out Gonzo: The Life & Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson at the San Francisco International Film Fest last month. The film opens in select cities this coming weekend and if you have the chance, I definitely recommend checking it out. Gonzo is a really inspiring film that manages to capture Thompson’s importance in reshaping the world of journalism. Given his iconic countercultural status and his copious drug intake, it’s easy to forget that Thompson made his mark as a journalist and that he was hanging out with hard hitting politicos like George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Pat Buchanan and the like. The film draws heavily from interviews with the aforementioned and in so doing paints a picture of him that focuses on his intellect and his quest for a new type of journalism. The archival footage of Thompson from the 60s and early 70s is riveting and bears out his quest to change journalistic standards. He is sharp, focused and engaging, not the drug-addled, gun-toting lunatic he became or is often portrayed as. The film spends a good deal of time on the ’72 Presidential campaign, which I found particularly fascinating and enlightening. The film does have some minor problems. Some of the new footage shot for dramatic and poetic effect is cheesy. The use of music is horrifying. All the 60s clich├ęs are in play. I can’t remember if we heard For What It’s Worth, Street Fighting Man or All Along the Watch Tower during the 1968 Democratic Convention beat downs, but whatever it was, you could hear it coming from a mile away. But minor transgressions for an inspiring film about an inspiring subject.

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