AGORA
: Dragged from her chariot by a mob of fanatical vigilante Christian monks, the revered astronomer was stripped naked, skinned to her bones with sharp oyster shells, stoned and burned alive as possibly the first executed witch in history. A kind of purge that was apparently big business back then.


CRITICAL WOMEN HEADLINES

7/7/08

GONZO The life and work of Dr. Hunter S Thompson (2008)

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (2008)

Alex Gibney director, story, producer

Runtime: 1 hr 58 mins


Plot:
During Thompson's ten year heyday from 1965-1975 he wrote a huge amount of words both in book and journalism format. He created an entirely new style of journalism, dubbed "gonzo," taken from a song of the same name, and solidified his place in history as one of America's most influential writers and rebels. Fueled by ,drugs and Wild Turkey and his insatiable appetite for excitement and intense stimulation from without Thompson became a true iconoclast: goring sacred cows with impunity, hilarity, and a steely-eyed obsession to right wrongs.

Commentary:
The process of creating character assassination or hero through journalism is an experience film Director Alex Gibney understands well as he admits to being the grandchildren of the great Rev. William Sloane Coffin for whom the press was often merciless. ( go to Common Dreams for further information on Rev. Coffin)

But that is as far as the similarity in experience between Alex
Gibney and Dr. Hunter S. Thomspon seems to go. What Gibney missed is Thompson the man. Who was he and what informed on this genius of words, ideas and showmanship? What other than the drugs and booze informed on his character, his life and his premature death?.

Alex Gibney demonstrated that a film Director does not need to understand his subject as long as he is a profoundly talented film creator. Gibney is so talented that overly long scenes that contained only the full blown image of a man or woman's face without benefit of neck or torso did not repel me nor make me turn away from the site for extended periods of uncontrolled horror. That in itself takes talent.

Gibney interspersed backdrops of testimonials from those close to or those whose political life Thompson wrote brilliantly about with real live footage. He used tapes found in Hunter's basement as a voice over for the reproduction at one point in the film.

Visiting the past is always a good idea. Gibney provides wonderful footage from real television shows of old and Gibney's choice of music was pure pleasure. It felt like I was seeing old political friends and foes, and listening to music that I once loved, and still remember with the same intensity of experience. It felt like the sixties came alive again and that is the great achievement that Gibney brings to the screen.

But what Gibney didn't understand was the real Hunter Thompson the man hidden behind the Nixon mask.

Hunter had the experience of sitting in the back seat of a car with Richard Nixon. Over their hour and a half conversation that focused on their mutual obsession with football, a profound similarity in their character emerged. Neither Hunter nor Nixon were easy to define. It is not that they were Teflon characters but rather they both appear to be vacuous people whose life blood was determined by the external stimuli upon which they both fed.

To say that Hunter was addicted to stimuli is borne out in the film. In the quiet moment in Africa during the eighth round in the Mohammed Ali fight against Joe Frazer for the heavy weight champion of the world, Hunter got bored and left the fight, put on his Nixon mask, flippers, a swim suit and plunged into an introduction to his eventual fall from the spotlight of the great author he aspired to be.

This same inability to tolerate the quiet moment with his family or to be comfortably alone was revisited at the end of his life. Yes, Hunter was sick, probably physically in pain, but that quiet, potentially nourishing moment with his family was for Hunter intolerable. As he sat with the intimate members of his family he knew that this life was not for him. He left the family setting, went outside and all that was heard was a quiet thump like sound. Not a firecracker set off into the sky, with an audience to applaud the show. That part of his demise came later. After the cremation, the sprinkling of his ashes in Aspen Colerado, an event he designed as his life diminished and thoughts of death came to the fore. Too often, his ex wife said, and his second wife concurred. Too often he thought or talked of taking his life.

But I have written too much about Thompson, the pack rat with all his baggage of senseless stimuli carried where ever he went. I have written too many words, and filled too much space but isn't that a reflection of the man and the power of this film to inspire the remembrance of a time, when and to hope that we will again be allowed to speak our minds without fear of arrest or a beating from the armed forces that control our world.

In my opinion Hunter, who seemed to possess the uncanny ability to foresee into the blind future as demonstrated in his reaction to the famous 9/11 explosion/demolition would never have endorsed the likes of our current "great white hope", Obama, who is neither white nor a symbol of hope. Obama has demonstrated that the separation of church and state will continue to be blurred and his commitment to the all too many wars that pledge this earth will continue under his reign But who else is there to fill the American Dream that we hear and are diligently taught to believe in while in the infancy of our developing young minds.

Hunter would have long ago destroyed this political charade but now, he is gone and there seems to be no one to replace him.

See this film and maybe you will be inspired to speak truth to the political scene that holds us all in silent captivity.


Starring: Gary Hart, George McGovern, Jann Wenner, Jimmy Buffett, Jimmy Carter
Director: Alex Gibney
Story: Alex Gibney
Producer: Alex Gibney, Graydon Carter, Jason Kliot, Joana Vicente, Alison Ellwood, Eva Orner
Composer: David Schwartz

Currently playing at the New York city Angelica Theater on Houston Street,

Linda Z
RottenTomatoes Vine:Witches Brew

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