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GONZO

Director: ALEX GIBNEY

U.S.A. • 2008 • COLOUR • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 35MM • 120 MIN


AN AUTHORITATIVE PORTRAIT OF A WRITER WHO CHANGED THE FACE OF AMERICAN JOURNALISM THROUGH SHEER FORCE OF HIS WARPED PERSONALITY, THIS LATEST FROM ACE DOCUMENTARIST ALEX GIBNEY OFFERS A PERFECT BEGINNER’S INTRODUCTION TO DR. HUNTER S. THOMPSON — AND A WORTHWHILE REMINDER OF HIS GIFTS AND FOIBLES FOR LONGTIME FANS.

Thankfully taking a more measured approach than Terry Gilliam’s harum-scarum adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas — though Johnny Depp returns to read beautifully from the texts — this retraces Thompson’s career breakthrough reporting on the Hells Angels by riding with a biker chapter for a year, and his subsequent invention of a new writing style, dubbed ‘gonzo’, when he covered the Kentucky Derby by skewering the people and goings-on off-track rather than detailing the race itself. Matching artful, utterly incisive prose, a prodigious intake of illegal stimulants, and an ingrained willingness to get up the nose of authority, Thompson hit his ’70s prime, and English illustrator Ralph Steadman rode pinion to capture its addled glory.

Taxi to the Dark Side director Gibney again displays his facility for digging up exactly the right nugget of information, and his intercutting of public and private footage with interviewees, including Jimmy Carter and Republican firebrand Pat Buchanan, is as expert as you’d expect. It’s no mere hagiography either, for it shows that having established his out-there persona, Thompson spent too much of his later years playing up to his gun-toting reputation even after his powers of penmanship had started to wane. It’s all here in this fine tribute to an American original. — Trevor Johnston.

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