HST Films // 2010 // 91 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // August 2nd, 2010
"Morality is temporary, wisdom is permanent." -- Hunter Stockton Thompson
Hunter S. Thompson's personality was always a part of his "gonzo" journalism. It was there in his best moments (like his book on the '72 campaign) and some of his worst (like when he decided to swim in the hotel pool instead of covering the Rumble in the Jungle). Thompson was also a self-confessed lazy hillbilly. Although writing was work for him, he claimed he only did it because it was the best way to make a buck. Then, sometime in the late 1970s, he discovered that he could get paid as much, if not more, for being "Hunter S. Thompson," and the fine line between author and personality was forever made fuzzy. So much of his behavior (and his writing) was influenced by his public persona, it often felt like he was "playing" the role of the Great Dr. Gonzo for the rest of his life. This makes much of the documentary footage of his later years hard for me to watch, because as much as I enjoy the occasional rebel yell and prankish antics of Dr. Gonzo, I've always been more attracted to the serious, writerly side of Thompson. Luckily, Animals, Whores & Dialogue: Breakfast with Hunter Vol. 2 contains a good mix of antics and interviews with the man that elaborate more on both his personal mythology as well as his approach to writing.
As such, Animals, Whores & Dialogue mixes fly-on-the-wall documentary footage of a number of Thompson appearances (including the twenty-fifth anniversary of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) interspersed with one-on-one interviews with Hunter S. Thompson discussing his literary career.
The original Breakfast With Hunter was made before Thompson's brief resurgence in popularity (due mainly to the genuinely great Kingdom of Fear) before his death. Prior to that, he'd mostly laid low. The Fear and Loathing movie didn't take off like it should have, and the publication of his letters seemed like a last hurrah before he stopped publishing altogether. Breakfast with Hunter, then, seemed to have something to prove. By stuffing the film full of Hunter's wild, life-affirming antics the film showed that he was not out for the count. The list of celebrity contributors (which also plagues other Thompson documentaries) showed his continuing relevance in the larger cultural community. The fact that we got to see behind the scenes of the Fear and Loathing movie was only a bonus.
Rightfully, though, Animals, Whores & Dialogue should have been the first film, not the sequel. Because it focuses more on Thompson interviews than simply watching him, it paints a slightly more balanced portrait of a writer who wasn't above waving a shotgun or screeching like a peacock, but who could also pound out sentences in his kitchen that would make most journalism students go mute with envy. This film also cuts down a little bit on the celebrity quotient as well. They're here, in fits and starts, but they don't command as much attention as they did in the first Breakfast With Hunter. Instead of others examining Thompson's work, we get to see the master critique his creations, and the results (while not surprising to many of the faithful) are rendered honestly.
Perhaps the only place where Animals, Whores & Dialogue doesn't compare favorably with its predecessor is in the DVD department. The first film looked a bit rough around the edges, but some of the catch-as-catch-can footage this time out looks even rougher. It looks basically consumer grade for most of the running time, but luckily the more intimate sessions with Hunter are pretty well lit. The audio track is a similarly mixed bag. Thompson wasn't above mumbling on occasion. Although most of the dialogue is audible, some subtitles would be appreciated. The first release had a commentary by director Wayne Ewing (with some participation by Thompson), as well as outtakes and some featurettes. None of that is present here. We get the movie, bare bones. Another commentary would have been redundant, but there has to be enough footage in the vaults to warrant some outtakes or something. Perhaps the austerity of the DVD fits better with the tone of the film, but fans are going to want more.
Hunter S. Thompson fans are legion, and there's a good chance they're going to want to own Animals, Whores & Dialogue. Although not as packed with extras (or celebrities) as the previous Breakfast with Hunter volume, this film does an excellent job of showcasing the more thoughtful, introspective side of the great Gonzo journalist. More than the first film, this one will serve as proof (or a reminder) that Hunter S. Thompson was a great writer capable of tremendous insight. For that it should be commended.
Not guilty. Selah!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: HST Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Wikipedia: Hunter S. Thompson