Monday, January 28, 2008

Commentary Commentary: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Most commentary tracks have a pretty common formula. They'll usually have the director talking about the movie, maybe by himself, maybe with a few other people. They'll usually throw in one or two of the primary cast members to join him, if he's not by himself, and maybe one of the tech people. A cinematographer, if the film had a particularly compelling visual style, or perhaps one of the effects people, if the film had a lot of CG work done. And that, generally speaking, is your commentary track.

And for people who want to learn about how movies get made, or find out some of the dirty secrets behind the production, or just listen to a handful of people shoot the shit and reminisce, this formula usually provides a pretty entertaining commentary track.

But sometimes you don't want to listen to that. Sometimes you want something a little bit different. Sometimes you want to spend two hours listening to just a little bit of madness. And for that, you'd be hard pressed to find a better commentary track than the Hunter S. Thompson commentary on "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas."

Hunter Thompson, of course, is the man who wrote the novel the film was based on, and a man who has lived his life pretty much the same way as his counterpart on the screen spent his time in Vegas -- pumping horrible amounts of every drug and every drink he could get his hands on into his body. And you can hear that sort of living in his voice. And in the occasional whooping hollers he bursts into, on occasion, while watching the film.

This isn't really the sort of commentary that you learn much of anything about by watching. Thompson refers to the film's director Terry Gilliam as gay on several occasions, explains which scenes he likes and which were shit, whoops, eats a radish, tries to phone Johnny Depp and then leaves a brutally violent message on his answering machine, and talks, at length, about what a disgusting human being Timothy Leary was.

In other words, it's pretty much like reading anything Hunter Thompson wrote in his life. Which means it's pretty goddamn awesome and pretty goddamn psychotic all at the same time.

If you're not a fan of the man's work, you're not likely to be a fan of the film (even if you *are* a fan of Gilliam's, because even while it's Gilliam behind the camera, and the film is full of Gilliam's visual style, this is really Hunter's movie), but if you are a fan of Thompson, there might be nothing more entertaining than sitting back and spending two hours with the king of Gonzo himself.

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