Monday, October 27, 2008


"The towers are gone now, reduced to bloody rubble, along with all hopes for Peace in Our Time, in the United States or any other country. Make no mistake about it: We are At War now -- with somebody -- and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives......It will be guerilla warfare on a global scale, with no front lines and no identifiable enemy. . . We are going to punish somebody for this attack, but just who or what will be blown to smithereens for it is hard to say. Maybe Afghanistan, maybe Pakistan or Iraq, or possibly all three at once. Who knows?.....This is going to be a very expensive war, and Victory is not guaranteed -- for anyone, and certainly not for anyone as baffled as George W. Bush. All he knows is that his father started the war a long time ago, and that he, the goofy child-President, has been chosen by Fate and the global Oil industry to finish it Now."
Hunter S Thompson in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

On form, Hunter S Thompson was one of the most perceptive, prophetic and entertaining commentators on US society and politics. He moved journalism beyond dry, objective reportage and into wild, subjective, semi-fictional narratives that somehow seemed to get right to the truth of the situation. His descriptions of the drug-addled social movements of the 60s and 70s earned him fame, fortune and cult status. FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS is a monument of alternative fiction. But Thompson's greater achievement was his political commentary in FEAR AND LOATHING ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL and in other articles in the years that followed. It's in this guise that I first came to read and love Hunter S Thompson, and it's in that guise, rather than as the cartoon-crazy Raoul Duke, that I wish he could've remained.

To that end, GONZO is a documentary that chimes with my deep sadness at the oft-predicted suicide of Hunter S Thompson. The central thesis of the doc., and one with which I concur, is that when Thompson created his wildly popular alter-ego, he also built his own coffin. The public wanted Gonzo, and Hunter served it up. He couldn't go back. How can you be the un-noticed hack at the back of the press conference when you're front-page news?

With fame and fortune came literary decline, a reluctance to leave Owl Creek and continued narcotics abuse. Still, Hunter might be with us today if it weren't for his sensitivity to US social and political currents combined with his deep patriotic fervour. The characteristics that made him a great writer, made life unbearable. When Hunter killed himself I felt angry that he'd deprived us of his piercing analysis just as we needed him most. In neo-con America we truly had a slavering beast to match Nixon. Hunter's first wife expresses the same sentiment in this doc. But the thing that I took from this movie was just how unbearable life must have been for a man who had fought Nixon and all that he stood for, tooth and nail, the first time round. It's unfair to expect a man to do it twice.

GONZO is a great documentary that tells the uninitiated why they should care about Hunter S Thompson and gives fans like myself new insight. I was morose after watching it - it felt like a eulogy - or better, a love letter, to a great writer and a tragic soul.

GONZO played Sundance and London 2008. It was released in the US and Canada earlier this year and is released in the UK on December 19th. It is released on Region 1 DVD on November 18th.

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