Sunday, 15 April 2012

Hunter S. Thompson – His Final Hours (2006)

One of these minor documentaries, that only die-hard fans can dig. Directed by William Hicklin for Cineflix International (Canadian TV production company) it makes an interesting effort to uncover last 24 hours of Hunter S. Thompson's life as a part of Final 24 biography series. While most of the classic and modern documentaries on Hunter have covered him on a current time basis or in retrospective – coming up with personal interviews and live/archival footage – this stuff goes down a little bit weirder patch favoring his last day as a TV play. We get a bunch of actors impersonating Thompson, his son, wife and befriended video camera operator – Ben Fee, who's been invited over at that time to shoot the family reunion. Obviously, it's been made after writer's suicide, so nobody was able to interview him anymore, but a drama take itself – known well from many criminal or historical documentaries – works here as well.

However, director had also ambition to map Hunter's long way to fame, thus he interviewed his ex-wife, few old Rolling Stones editors and his neigbours. There's even a psychiatrist and one minor book biographer in this bunch, but both without a real muscle. Overall His Final Hours is a nice collage of acted reconstruction and Hunter's back-story, which weaves in and out as the countdown to an end is getting nearer. All threads are linked, all explanations are given and all known facts are unveiled as we watch the actors giving their performance on a snowy-white set (as Thomspon took his life in February) in a country house, carrying a forced resemblance to Owl Farm. For those of you, who've read two or three biographies about Thompson, there won't be probably any new crack on the writer, but this material is consistent enough to serve as an expanding pill for the readers, who are after obnoxious or shocking details, which in Hunter's case seem more than easy to catch. He proclaimed himself the last public drug fiend anyway.

Thompson's twisted, double nature and persona playing comes first as an explanation for his mythical drive towards drugs, alcohol and wild non-conformism. Although portraited as a juvenile delinquent in Louisville, who nevertheless aspired high and then bitter journalist for many years (two books rejected, being limited to smalltime press writing for a long time), who suddenly broke through with Hell's Angels in 1966 and then just winged ahead to better deals, there's never any doubt about his great writing talent. This is confirmed by everybody in the movie, can hardly be questioned and happens only when another frustrated crappy writer sweats out some adolescent bunk in order to get his five minutes. But more interesting is digging in Hunter's closet, which is done with a surprising dose of competence. Sandra (ex-wife) doesn't take his charm away, but speaks of his dark temper as well.

Respectively his former Rolling Stone editor – Alan Rinzler, takes us back to the early 70's recounting anectdotes how Hunter must've got loaded with everything he could have laid his paws on (usually coke, weed and whiskey) in order to crystalize the angelic vision out of thin air. Otherwise he couldn't write. If he was zonked out like a space monkey, he coudn't write either. Apparently, a delicate balance was necessary. That – as it's stated here – was a good line in a short run, but in the late 70's or early 80's started taking it's toll as an integral part of Hunter's lifestyle and ultimately as a destructive fix. The most detectable result was a crashing level of his writing as imaginative started becoming real (a prisoner of his own narration theory). In fact, between 1973-1983 he didn't write anything new – The Great Shark Hunt (1979) was brilliant stuff, but only a retrospective collection of previously written materials – with Curse Of Lono (1983) opening another period. But even this book would have never been published if not Douglas Brinkley's intervention, who had to put it together virtually by himself!

Then we eventually come to fin de siecle, 2003-2005, when Hunter underwent two hip surgeries, suffered broken leg pain and started getting weary and depressed from daily mixture of painkillers and Chivas Regal. At that point it wasn't mystery for anyone, that he was a hard drinking alcoholic, although most of the people interviewed in the movie prefer to speak of "a professional drinker". Whatever, diplomacy was never Hunter's strong line and he wouldn't mind in-your-face anyway. Moreover, he's been spreading the word about his suicidal mood at least two years before he's actually done it as well, so nobody could have been genuinely surprised (covered in the movie). The way he's done it? Hemingway way? Stashing almost 30 guns loaded around the house? The only option really. And the word he left on a paper: "Counselor"? Probably an ultimate gonzo joke... but we'll never know, cause he's dead now sniffing heavenly coke. Good filler for detail hunters, but you need to be Hunter's lover to really appreciate it!

Full movie

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