Monday, 20 February 2012

Breakfast with Hunter (2003)

Arguably, the best documentary on Hunter S. Thompson made till this point! While you might have had a good time watching recent stuff like "Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson" (2008), "Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride" (2006), "Hunter S. Thompson – His Final Hours" (2006) or even reaching for obscure documentary like "Fear and Loathing in Gonzovision" (1978), produced by BBC – this film by Wayne Ewing is your champion. After all, if you want to have a sneak peek at someone's life, who's better than a neighbour? Ewing was luckily based in Aspen, strictly inside Hunter's crowd and he happened to take part in writer's daily life. He lived near, he appeared when called up and most importantly he was a great documentarist, hanging out with a camera since late 70's and capturing all these moments, that could have been turned into heavy shit afterwards.

„Breakfast with Hunter” is a real gem of personal documentary making, being praised by many Thompson's fans as the one, which managed to get through the mythical wall of smoke. It shares Thompson's life as we were in his room, drinking Chivas Regal, smoking weed and occasionally being victims of his unstoppable temper. This is it, man! We hear Thompson mumbling with his famous Southern accent (a legendary perk actually), getting pissed drunk on scotch, sharping teeth on the brutes and jabbering high whenever one of his romantic visions kicks in. The legend finally appears in flesh and bone. We're not led again through Hunter's wife, son and editor interviews, invited to go public with their judgements and feelings, which used to be tangible, but by that time they got nailed by director, they cooled off and became yesterday's newspaper. We're shaking hands with Hunter here and that's what makes this film a purely valuable experience!

Ewing gets us mostly through late 90's in Hunter's life, departing around the time when our cult persona stood ugly trial for alleged drunken driving in Aspen, sliding through 25th anniversary party for "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" book in New York and Louisville and finally closing in on the premiere of Terry Gilliam's film adaptation starring Johnny Depp. Film's occasional flashes from the past like Hunter's race for sheriff's chair in 1972, help well to fix the narration. We'll never probably witness Hunter closer than we do here... leaving out his unforgettable books and maybe two written biographies. As the most apparent Thompson's kickside comes again Johnny Depp. We may clearly notice here how close they were and how well their spirits resonated. This was yet before Depp became a big Hollywood star, for which we have to point again to "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" (1998) as a turning point for his professional career. After all, I don't think that Johnny Depp would disagree as Hunter's influence on his life is undeniable, cemented later on by financing Hunter's eccentric funeral – writer's ultimate fantasy.

This outstanding footage contains absolutely magical moments like that one, when Hunter is paid a visit by Alex Cox and his script writer – first team assigned to direct "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" – whom he hated enough after two hours of "conference" (this timing is obviously softened on the screen) to throw their coats on and show them out. He despised the animation idea, personally rendered as a cartoon, which I think resembled too much of his nightmare – "Doonesbury". That's when we see "the story" breaking down into single moments, which later glue together and ride on. These events eventually were to bring Terry Gilliam to the picture, who came up with a vision that was to Hunter's liking and became a cult movie. Another one of my favs is Hunter frivolously juggling with an open whisky bottle in a trailer, where the actors usually take a break. He's smashed and spills it all over making Johnny Depp laugh as a child – one of these famous teenager pranks Hunter loved, which became his character's official trade mark – a minor, but perfect insight into his style of doing things.

I doubt you'll find any more personal documentary on Hunter and I'm quite convinced you're gonna dig it if you're Thompson's ardent fan. This film makes me wanna quote few lines from "Kingdom Of Fear" (2003) stating all which Hunter S. Thompson stood for in his life and what eventually added to his depression: The news is bad today, in America and for America. There is nothing good or hopeful about it – except for Nazis, warmongers, and rich greedheads – and it is getting worse and worse in logarithmic progressions since the fateful bombing of the World Trade Towers in New York. that will always be a festering low-watermark in this nation's violent history (…) Fly high, doctor!

[This great documentary can be purchased from Wayne Ewing's website]