Instead of using lame educational sketches and buoyant students who scream “Get high on life!” to bored school hall assemblies, drug educators should look at movies to do the heavy lifting. And while they are at it, they might as well give a broad representation of the whole culture. This can be accomplished in three steps: the good, bad and ugly. ‘Ugly’ is no doubt Requiem For A Dream, ‘Bad’ can be the mixed life messages of Trainspotting and for ‘Good’… well, there is this masterpiece…
Terry Gilliam is a strange oddity in the movie business. His films are often too left-of-field for mainstream audiences to appreciate. His tastes also tend to confuse fans, which is why he never built the cachet of filmmakers like the Coen Brothers. And his own bad luck with films even resulted in an interesting documentary. Yet he keeps having luck with finding funding and backers, because when Gilliam hits all the notes in the right place, you get stuff like 12 Monkeys, Brazil and the single best book-to-movie adaptation perhaps ever made.
Hunter S. Thompson’s book hardly reads like a movie. Sure, it is coherent and has a narrative, but that is only half of it. The man was a maniac and his writing reflected this outlook on the world. As such, his words can’t be put to screen without a certain level of insanity. And Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, which documented a three day criminal and drug binge in Sin City, demanded this more than any of the Gonzo godfather’s other work.
Gilliam achieved this in totality, while hardly deviating from the actual book at all. Johnny Depp, who became close friends with Thompson (and later paid for his extravagant memorial service), channeled the late journalist to a tee. And Benicio Del Toro featured in one of his strangest and greatest roles ever. All in all, this film was pitch perfect – which is a tall order when you consider it’s all about drug insanity. You’d be hard pressed to find HST fans who did not like it. In fact, many of them probably became fans of the man BECAUSE of Fear and Loathing. And if you notice a few similarities between this movie and Rango, you’re not imagining things. Come to think of it, maybe kids should not see this. Indeed, if there ever was a film that makes you want to get high on powerful psychedelics… just be careful. Remember, this is bat country.
Cinophile is a weekly feature showcasing films that are strange, brilliant, bizarre and explains why we love the movies.
Last Updated: September 16, 2013