Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Films To While the Time By- Before Gonzo Journalism Was Gonzo- Johnny Depp’s “The Rum Diary” (With Kudos To Hunter S. Thompson)

Films To While the Time By- Before Gonzo Journalism Was Gonzo- Johnny Depp’s “The Rum Diary” (With Kudos To Hunter S. Thompson)

Zack James’ comment June, 2017:
You know it is in a way too bad that “Doctor Gonzo”-Hunter S Thompson, the late legendary journalist who broke the back, hell broke the neck, legs, arms of so-called objective journalism in a drug-blazed frenzy back in the 1970s when he “walked with the king”’ is not with us in these times. In the times of this 50th anniversary commemoration of the Summer of Love, 1967 which he worked the edges of while he was doing research (live and in your face research by the way) on the notorious West Coast-based Hell’s Angels. His “hook” through Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters down in Kesey’s place in La Honda where many an “acid test” took place and where for a time the Angels, Hunter in tow, were welcomed. He had been there in the high tide, when it looked like we had the night-takers on the run and later as well when he saw the ebb tide of the 1960s coming a year or so later although that did not stop him from developing the quintessential “gonzo” journalism fine-tuned with plenty of dope for which he would become famous before the end, before he took his aging life and left Johnny Depp and company to fling his ashes over this good green planet. He would have “dug” the exhibition, maybe smoked a joint for old times’ sake (oh no, no that is not done in proper society) at the de Young Museum at the Golden Gate Park highlighting the events of the period showing until August 20th of this year.   

Better yet he would have had this Trump thug bizarre weirdness wrapped up and bleeding from all pores just like he regaled us with the tales from the White House bunker back in the days when Trump’s kindred one Richard Milhous Nixon, President of the United States and common criminal was running the same low rent trip before he was run out of town by his own like some rabid rat. But perhaps the road to truth these days, in the days of “alternate facts” and assorted other bullshit    would have been bumpier than in those more “civilized” times when simple burglaries and silly tape-recorders ruled the roost. Hunter did not make the Nixon “hit list” (to his everlasting regret for which he could hardly hold his head up in public) but these days he surely would find himself in the top echelon. Maybe too though with these thugs he might have found himself in some back alley bleeding from all pores. Hunter Thompson wherever you are –help. Selah. Enough said-for now  

DVD Review

The Rum Diary, starring Johnny Depp, GK Films, 2011

Okay, here is the plot line of the film under review, the adaptation of the late Hunter S. Thompson’s legendary (more later on that) The Rum Diary, straight out of the gate. A young aspiring American writer, of the male persuasion, Paul Kemp, played by Thompson pal Johnny Depp, seeks employment in the newspaper business down in then backwater colonial Puerto Rico in the late cold war red scare early 1960s. Said writer, working to win his spurs and to make a name for himself tries six ways to Sunday to upgrade himself as a professional and the newspaper as well (based on a real the San Juan Star of the time). Oh, and chase a few windmills to right some of the egregious wrongs of this world as the young are prone to do (the major wrong confronting him being double-triple rip-out of the place by hungry, very hungry real estate developers). Problems encountered in chasing those windmills: said budding journalist is a bit of a drunk, a bit too close to some ex-pat fellow journalists who gravitated to PR just to be flaky in peace, and a bit too close (but one cannot blame him on this one) to one very hot blonde who happens to be slumming in Puerto Rico just then. But, trust me, one Paul Kemp will straighten that whole thing out, or have us go mad trying.

Sound familiar? Well, for any Hunter Thompson aficionado, and count me as one, hell, any half- aficionado, this plot line is very, very much like the life, the early life of one Hunter S. Thompson. And how would we know?
Well we have read the letters, we have read the Rolling Stone articles, hell we have read Songs of the Doomed and got a taste for snippets of The Rum Diary there. So when viewing this film there was a certain disappointment (just a little) that this did not turn out to be the great film adaptation of Hunter Thompson’s stab at the great American novel.

And here is where the “more later” mentioned above on The Rum Diary comes in. Hunter Thompson, seemingly, spend endless hours as far back as the early 1970s (maybe earlier )trying get this novel published (and in publishable form), and into film form. But here is a case where life (his, his later life anyway) outdid fiction. The ambience of the film seems very dated, very dated indeed in the post-Doctor Gonzo age. For what it is worth this is my “skinny” on Thompson’s career. He was one of the premier journalists of the last half of the twentieth century but as a novelist he was well behind his heroes Fitzgerald and Hemingway. As for Johnny Depp’s performance, well, Johnny Depp knows, knows deep in his bones, how to play off-the wall characters and does a better job, a much better job, here than in his attempt at channeling Hunter Thompson in the film adaptation of Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas. Selah.

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