USA, 2007, 118 minutes
Thu, May 8 / 7:00 / Castro / CLOSE / CLOSEV / GONZ08C
Nixon was a werewolf. Las Vegas is filled with reptiles. We are all doomed. After several documentaries and biographies, and two book-to-film adaptations, you almost pity anyone who attempts another take on gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson. Yet Alex Gibney, the Oscar-winning director of Taxi to the Dark Side and Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room(SFIFF 2005), dives in and gives us the most unflinching and complete version to date of a man who at one time was the most popular writer in America. Armed with support from producers Graydon Carter and Mark Cuban, Gibney’s team clearly sought all available source material to get this story right. He focuses on the years of Thompson’s rock-star zenith, roughly 1965 to 1975, and reintroduces us to an incredible era of social history, from hippies and bikers to Vegas excess and the ’72 presidential campaign, supported by rare clips and Thompson’s own words, narrated by Johnny Depp. Jimmy Carter and George McGovern give context alongside Pat Buchanan, Jimmy Buffet, Tim Crouse, Sonny Barger, Ralph Steadman and Jann Wenner, who at one point (thanks to Thompson) even catches a fire extinguisher blast to the face. While Gibney doesn’t spare details of Thompson’s eventual decline, ending up hostage to his own persona, he also explains how this unorthodox patriot and rowdy from Kentucky ended up such an enduring icon of maverick journalism and pop culture. Much like Thompson at his best, this film will make you want to yell in frustration at America’s continuing parade of liars, pimps and thieves.
West Coast Premiere. Sponsored by Vanity Fair.