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November

Walks you out of an emotional underworld back into the light —Marty Mapes (review...)

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Note: This is the first in a three-part series on DVDs about Hunter S. Thompson from director Wayne Ewing. Look for parts two and three February 13 and February 20.

Breakfast with Hunter affords viewers the unique opportunity to live like a fly on the wall in Owl Farm and thereby witness the craziness that was (and always will be) Hunter S. Thompson.

Gonzo Journalist

Live like a fly on the wall in Owl Farm
Live like a fly on the wall in Owl Farm

Director Wayne Ewing smartly takes a back seat to Hunter S. Thompson. Nobody can put words into the mouth of gonzo journalism’s founder. And when Thompson’s buddies include the likes of Johnny Depp, John Cusack and Warren Zevon, it’s best to simply let the boyz do their thing.

The title’s a little misleading; this isn’t a simple, conversational documentary in which Thompson sits down to chat over breakfast.

Oh no. There are actually a couple different storylines going on here. One involves Thompson’s challenge to Aspen police regarding a DUI incident. The other involves the nonstop attention Thompson and his perhaps most famous work, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, continue to garner. From promotional tours to ceremonial accolades to dealing with Hollywood producers, Hunter is constantly on the go go go.

The festivities, so to speak, start with Thompson headlining a sold-out gig at the Viper Room with Johnny Depp as his “interpreter.” Also taking the stage is John Cusack, who reads Thompson’s newest missive, a letter entitled How to Deal with the Police, a crisp piece that lambastes the nonsense of his ongoing DUI case.

Through scenes such as those at the Viper Room and back at the friendly confines of his home, Owl Farm, Breakfast with Hunter provides a very colorful, deftly presented portrait of the master writer.

Film and Loathing

It would too easy to write off Thompson as a mere loon. Some of his work, particularly the aforementioned Vegas tome, would lend themselves to such a simple generalization.

But one also has to consider Thompson’s other influential works, including Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail. That’s the kind of work that rallies a whole different crew of celebrities to pile on the accolades, including A-list politicians George McGovern and Eugene McCarthy.

Breakfast with Hunter captures those moments too, and following Thompson’s suicide in early 2005 at the fairly young age of 67, one has to wonder what kind of political rants Thompson would have generated in today’s perpetually devolving political climate.

As it stands, Thompson brought his own brand of joie de vivre to the world and he is still missed by his friends and admirers.

DVD Extras

The DVD offers some marvelous supplemental features. Particularly valuable are scenes of Hunter editing his books The Rum Diary and Fear and Loathing in America.

A segment in which Warren Zevon and Thompson discuss lyrics for You’re a Different Person when You’re Scared is very cool while P.J. O’Rourke’s interview with Thompson tackles Gonzo journalism, drugs and other topics.

Also on hand is a neat piece in which Don Johnson and P.J. O’Rourke read Thompson’s Screwjack. It’s an interesting little tale (no pun intended).

And there’s also a segment in which Oscar Acosta, Thompson’s real-life traveling companion in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, is remembered by Thompson.

The DVD also includes a handy bibliography of Thompson’s work and, somewhat as a gimmick, it also provides “English subtitles for the Gonzo dialect of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.”

Finally, there’s a running commentary. Thompson sits in for the first half hour then disappears. Ewing tries a question and answer style, wrangling chit chat out of his subject. But the remainder of the commentary, without Thompson, is actually more revealing, since Ewing no longer has to steer Thompson and instead can focus strictly on relating the experiences of making Breakfast with Hunter.

Picture and Sound

The documentary is presented in its original full-frame, 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The quality’s fine, as is the 2.0 Dolby Stereo track. This is, after all, a fairly intimate documentary about one of journalism’s most influential writers. A big budget Hollywood action flick it ain’t.

How to Use This DVD

Start with the main feature. For those who have a hard time picking up on Thompson’s unique dialect, the subtitles will come in handy, but most viewers should be OK without them.

From there, check out the various supplements, particularly the interview segments, editing scenes, and Thompson’s recollection of Oscar Acosta. They’re all great additions that provide more insight into the madness behind Thompson’s method.

For diehards, also listen to the running commentary. Life for the Average Joe will go on fine without it, but those who are curious about the making of the documentary and those who simply can’t get enough of H.S.T. will find some nice nuggets on the track.

Next week... Free Lisl

  • Wayne Ewing: Thanks, Matt, for the insightful review of my film "Breakfast with Hunter." You might want to add that BWH and it's two companion films = "When I Die" & "Free Lisl" - are available exclusively at our website www.HunterThompsonFilms.com February 9, 2007 reply