"Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter." -- Revelations 1:19
Hunter S. Thompson said he always quoted the Bible in his writings -- the lengthy, disciplined-yet-crazy, meticulous-yet-mercurial, false-yet-true not-quite-journalism he crafted for Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone and others -- not because of its prose or principles but because it was the only book guaranteed to be available in the hotel rooms where Thompson would drink, dope and dictate the stories that made him famous in the '60s and '70s. That sort of limited access to information seems unimaginable in this day and age, when you can plug a CAT-5 cable in at almost any hotel and access the Web. And Thompson made his name in a very different world than the one we live in; at the same time, it's not that different. The United States was mired in a long and seemingly unwinnable war; civil liberties were being curtailed in the name of preserving freedom; political primary campaigns were less about issues than personalities. Those things were going on in the '60s and '70s, and some could suggest they're going on now, and our past is woven into our present; when I was looking for something appropriate from Revelations to start this review, I could have looked on the Web ... but I still found a Bible in the bedside table at my hotel.
Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson is a new documentary about Thompson's life and legacy, written and directed by Alex Gibney. Gibney's previously looked at greed (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) and war's madness (Taxi to the Dark Side) in prior documentaries that combined journalistic integrity with artistic expression. Looking at the life and work of another journalist who gave what read like track reports for the four horsemen of the apocalypse must have seemed like a natural idea. And while Gonzo incorporates recreations and impressionistic re-stagings (the film opens with a bald, pallid obvious stand-in for Thompson stabbing single fingers at an electric typewriter, then recreates a famed photo of an armed Thompson drawing down on a keyboard in the snow), it also lets Thompson's own work and own voice speak for themselves.