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Review (classic): Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

–  by David Morgan-Brown

fear and loathing posterThe cult film adapted from the cult novel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, was given a terrific immersive screening at Luna Leederville recently. Adapted from the book by Hunter S. Thompson (which is sort of a behind the scenes of itself), it stars Johnny Depp as journalist Raoul Duke and Benicio del Toro as his attorney Dr Gonzo, who gear up for a weekend or two in Las Vegas to cover a story on a dirt-bike race – the result ended with one of the great American novels of the ‘70s, along with countless amounts of dead braincells among our two protagonists.

Luna Leederville brought us another terrific immersive cinematic experience with Raoul Dukes selling customers suspicious looking brownies, terrifying human-reptilians terrorising cinema-goers, costume competitions (with a few Raoul Dukes, a couple of Dr Gonzos, and a hitchhiker part of the contest) and goodie bags filled with Wizz Fizz, parking valet tickets, and fly-swatters to get rid of any bats (imaginary or not).

Fear and Loathing… is certainly an experience, a nauseating, hallucinatory, cartoonish barrage of sound, colour, alarms, lights, and confusion, the main strip of Las Vegas proves to be a hell for our two protagonists who are up to their necks on mescaline and acid. If the idea of seeing through a film what the horrors of Las Vegas would be like whilst at the humanly possible apex of tripping, then you can give this one a miss. Director Terry Gilliam dunks this film deep into the depraved, hellish, drugged-up world that Thompson and his friend spent so much of the ‘70s in. Some dialogue is barely coherent, the music is sometimes too loud, the editing is very disorientating, the camera-work is all over the place, the story and the paths of these characters always seem to end up at the wrong place or the same place as before – it’s all part of the deranged filmmakers’ plans.

This successful film adaptation has garnered a cult status which was proven by the enthusiastic turn-out at the cinema. But back in the day, the fear and loathingwell-regarded Thompson book had trouble getting to the cinema screens, with a filmic adaption Where the Buffalo Roam (with Bill Murray as Duke) proved to be unsuccessful, and Thompson himself was a reason the film took so long to happen due to artistic reluctance. He finally put his trust in Gilliam to direct the film (and even agreed to appear in a small cameo) along with Johnny Depp as Duke, who spent much time with Thompson getting the idiosyncratic voice and mannerisms correct. It divided critics at the time, but Gilliam’s vision of Thompson’s vision immediately achieved a not-so-small dedicated audience and became a quintessential film of the ‘90s for stoner college students.

Luna Leederville do their upmost to make sure to bring an immersive cinematic experience when they say they’re going to, and this was no exception. The audience were wonderfully interactive with the film, encouraged by the cinema staff’s film rules, which included having the rowdy crowd mumble loudly at the screen whenever they couldn’t understand what the characters were saying, which was quite a lot of the time – if you wanted to catch every word of dialogue, you’d best stay at home with the DVD and its subtitles on. It was great to see the cultural influence Thompson and this film has had on film enthusiasts in Perth, no matter what age they were. As long as hardcore narcotics exist, so will Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

There’s more goodiness to come from Luna Cinemas, with the Studio Ghibli showcase currently on at Luna Leederville (screening films from and docos on the two Ghibli masters, Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata), the British Film Festival (screening a number of new British films, and ‘60s classics), and of course there’s the Colosoul Short Film Festival 2014 later this year – I don’t know about you, but Luna Cinemas seem determined to take all my money.

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