Gonzo Journalism – a style of journalism that is written without claims of objectivity, often including the reporter as part of the story via a first-person narrative.

I had first heard about Gonzo journalism when I watched the documentary ‘High There’ (reviewed here). It was this that led me to discover the works of Hunter S. Thompson, the man whose style of reporting spawned the term.

Hunter S. Thompson was a very talented, very unconventional, and certainly unusual writer, best known for works such as  Hell’s Angels, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72, and The Rum Diary.

I was very keen to learn more about him and his life and first watched the wild and trippy Johnny Depp film ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ a dramatisation based on the book of the same name. Many of the scenes in the film were bizarre and only reinforced the desire to learn the real story about the man and I was lucky enough to find the documentary ‘Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.’

‘Gonzo’ tells the story of Hunter S. Thompson from his early days embedded with the Hells Angels, through the coverage of the McGovern presidential campaign, and into his later years as a supremely famous but drug and alcohol ‘infused’ writer.

Using actual footage from the period, interviews with his contemporaries, including narration by friend, Johnny Depp, as well as interviews with the man himself the film, paints a picture of a very clever writer striving to improve the world through his writing and political commentary. But at the same time one gets the feeling that he was a troubled man, one attempting to either dull or perhaps  even to enhance reality with his considerable alcohol and drug consumption, and eventually becoming a victim of his own fame and fabled excesses.

Gonzo’ is an interesting film, both from the point of view of learning about his life and career but also as a history lesson on the United States during the 60’s and 70’s. The music from that era makes for a great soundtrack but some of the scenes from that period are disturbing and it’s hard to believe that the America we know today has gone through the events portrayed in the film.

Hunter S. Thompson was a wild character and his capacity for alcohol and drug consumption was hard to believe although later scenes do seem to indicate signs of damage, with his slurring words and seeming lack of alertness, (or perhaps he was just “under the influence” while being filmed).

Whatever ones’ opinion on his lifestyle, there is no doubt that he was a supremely talented writer   but one has to wonder how much more could he have achieved and written had he lived a longer  and healthier life?

But then maybe he wouldn’t have been ‘Hunter S. Thompson’

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