TERRY GILLIAM’S FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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A landmark of cinematic excess and a monument to extreme personal waste. What begins as a festival of bad behavior rapidly becomes a volatile carnival of wild transgressions by its conclusion. An ode to the beast within. Chaotic, loud, obnoxious, and utterly unhinged, the film adaptation of the iconic novel Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas is Terry Gilliam on two bags of grass, 75 pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, with a half a salt shaker of cocaine on the side, and some other goodies lined up and ready to pummel the senses. Aggressive doesn’t begin to cover this masterful piece of work – it forcefully shoves your face into a kaleidoscopic realm of drug-fueled hyper-insanity, all beautifully stitched together by Hunter Thompson’s indelible prose and the gonzo filmmaking energy of Gilliam and every single one of his collaborators. The obscenely gifted (and one-eyed) cinematographer Nicola Pecorini should have won every award back in the day for his work on this aesthetically ground-breaking piece of cinema. Scene after scene, shot after shot, one is left with a buzzing sensation in their eyes, as the restless camera never stops prowling, swerving, or gliding, producing waves of cinematic euphoria that have rarely been achieved. Few other narrative films have shown the LSD experience for what it truly can be (James Toback’s Harvard Man has an EXCEPTIONAL trip-out sequence as does Larry Clark’s Bully and Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void – DMT in that one…) and you can tell that Gilliam was eager to explore how he could visually convey the monumental bingeing and drugging that Dr. Gonzo and his Lawyer would embark upon. Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro give career-topping performances, never once not feeling 110% committed to the maximum absurdity unfolding all around them. Depp studied Thompson’s mannerisms for months before shooting and the effect that their personal relationship had on his performance can be intrinsically felt at all times. Del Toro had to go off of stories and memories for his bit of methodically uncontrolled madness as Thompson’s animalistic partner in crime, and everything he brought to this film – the fat stomach, the out of control hair, the demonic glint in his eye – added up to creating a truly gluttonous monster of a man. I can remember buying a ticket for this film, back in high school, on the Sunday of its opening weekend, and the cashier remarking incredulously: “Are you sure?! We’ve had a lot of walkouts and angry people…” Seriously, only a fool would go into this movie blind; I hope that the people who bolted early were so shocked and appalled by what they’d seen that they’ll never forget it for the rest of their lives. This isn’t a movie for everyone; in fact, I’d say that there’s a limited audience for this film and other works like it — you need to WANT to be surrounded by drunk and high people for an extended period of time, so as a result, the asinine levels of drug and alcohol fueled debauchery that occur will be a turn off to many, many people. I’ve long been fascinated with Thompson and Gilliam as artists, and this project seemed like a natural fit for Gilliam to tackle considering his anarchic view on life, and how Thompson’s original text sought to challenge every single notion of what everyone felt was normal and acceptable. This is top 10 material of all time for me, a movie I could watch every single day of my life, and it’s something I’ll never grow tired of exploring, debating, and obsessing over.

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