Enter the Void


Director: Gaspar Noé
Written by: Gaspar Noé, Lucile Hadzihalilovic
Cast: Nathaniel Brown, Paz de la Huerta, Cyril Roy, Olly Alexander

Year / Country: 2009, France / Germany / Italy / Canada / Japan
Running Time: 161 mins.

Death is the greatest drug!

Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void is hypnotic from the trippy credits onwards. The entire film is shot from the perspective of the heavy drug user and dealer Oscar who dies fifteen minutes into the movie. He gets shot during a police raid in a Tokyo bar called ‘the Void’ when he locked himself in the toilet trying to flush his stash of gear.

Oscar, who was just reading ‘The Tibetan Book of the Dead’ which he borrowed from his friend Alex, sees his own dead body on the restroom floor and it feels like a genuine death experience. The rest of the film follows Oscar’s consciousness point-of-view that keeps hovering above people he used to be close to, seeing psychedelic images, or just strangers and old friends having sex. He also re-experiences scenes from his own life from an outside perspective. Oscar is no longer burdened by the restraints of a physical body or the flow of time. Philosophically, the laws of cause and effect are one of the main themes of the film.

His main memory is the car crash that killed his parents and left him and his sister traumatized orphans. They ended up in Tokyo where she became a stripper and he became a dealer and user. Oscar observes the aftermath of his death which includes police interrogations, dramatic arguments between his old friends, and lives going seriously off the rails. Watching the human tragedy play out from an eagle eye perspective is playful and refreshing. (Spoiler: It ends with Oscar’s soul reincarnating as a baby).

Noé’s dream project is a successful experimental film with a number of powerful scenes and some stunning visuals. The film’s main problem is that it is more than two and a half hours long! For an experimental movie that is a major sin. But Noé is all about trying new things. Unfortunately, the film became a major flop (not even a million gross worldwide versus a sixteen million dollar budget according to IMDb). Still these beautiful crane shots of neon-lit Tokyo were worth every buck. With some proper editing, this could have been a masterpiece.

Another downside is that Enter the Void is mostly a visual experience. The electronic pop helps to create the unique atmosphere, but there are no thoughts by Oscar after he is killed or other sensations. Therefore, I hope that monsieur Noé will one day create a virtual reality project of his vision. About his elaborate view on death two notions stick. One, dying ain’t so bad. And two, voiced by Oscar in a discussion with Alex about the ‘The Book of the Dead’ on their way to the club is; are we really gonna be stuck forever on this shit hole of a planet?

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Biography: Gaspar Noé (1963, Buenos Aires) is an Argentine-born French film director. Noé spent his childhood in Buenos Aires and New York before moving to France with his parents at the age of 12. He studied philosophy and film studies at the École Louis-Lumière in Paris. After this he initially started working as First Assistant Director before becoming a director himself. In 1992 he made his breakthrough as a director with his short film Carne. Noé mainly focuses on short films. Stanley Kubrick’s films in particular serve as inspiration for him. Well known feature length films he directed are the controversial Irreversible and Enter the Void. Noé is married to filmmaker Lucile Hadzihalilovic. She is credited as co-writer for his movie Enter the Void from 2009.

Filmography (a selection): Carne (1991, short) / I Stand Alone (1998) / Sodomites (1998, short), Irréversible (2002), Intoxication (2002, short), Eva (2005, short), Destricted (2006, segment: We Fuck Alone), SIDA (2006, short), Enter the Void (2009), 42 One Dream Rush (2010, short), Love (2015), Climax (2018), Lvx Æterna (2019), Vortex (2021)

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Director: Terry Gilliam
Written by: Hunter S. Thompson (book), Terry Gilliam (screenplay), Tony Grisoni (screenplay), Tod Davies (screenplay), Alex Cox (screenplay)
Cast: Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro, lot’s of cameo’s including; Tobey Maguire, Gary Busey, Ellen Barkin, Christina Ricci, Cameron Diaz, Flea and Harry Dean Stanton

Year / Country: 1998, USA
Running Time: 118 mins.

It is the foul year of our lord 1971 and Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson (Raoul Duke in the story) and his Samoan attorney Dr. Gonzo decide to undertake the ultimate trip of the seventies. The official assignment is to cover the Mint 400 desert race in Las Vegas, but they have something bigger in mind. They want to find the American dream. Armed to the teeth with highly dangerous narcotics, they head out to Las Vegas in their fire red convertible… Some trip it’s gonna be…

While searching for the American dream, Thompson and Dr. Gonzo only find fear and loathing. Intolerable vibrations in a town not at all suitable for the use of psychedelic drugs. The atmosphere is extremely menacing, but as they behave as animals, nobody even notices them. Vegas turns out to be a savage town. And while soldiers are dying in Vietnam, used car dealers from Dallas throw their money in the slot machines, Debbie Reynolds sings in the Desert Inn and the national police force meets at a congress about marijuana. Thompson and Dr. Gonzo are there.

Thompson’s novel ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’, which was first published in two parts in Rolling Stone Magazine, became a cultural phenomenon (and my personal favorite book of all time). The movie adaptation by Terry Gilliam is a literal one. Thompson wrote his famous novel Gonzo style, which means the events are told through the eyes and vision of the author who fully participates in the story himself. Since Thompson was heavily under the influence during the writing process, he claims he can’t fully remember which parts truly happened and which ones did not (fully). Therefore this literal adaptation is a highly enjoyable blast, though not always realistic.

There is one downside to director Gilliam’s literal approach. In the novel, all the psychedelic escapades form an integral part of what is obviously a literary masterpiece. In the translation to film however, these escapades sometimes appear to be useless fuckarounds, especially during the final part of the film. However, that is a minor criticism for this is obviously a highly enjoyable movie. Depp and Del Toro are both terrific in their method acting approaches to their roles. Thompson’s poetic writing, beautifully narrated by Depp in voice-over, runs through the movie that captures the era and hallucinogenic nightmare perfectly. Combined with a beautiful seventies soundtrack and Grade A settings, the great time capsule that is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is complete. Also, it is one of the funniest movies of all time. So buy the ticket and take the ride.

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Biography: Terry Gilliam (1940, Minneapolis) started his career as the only American member of the British comedy group Monty Python. As animator, he was responsible for the bizarre cartoons used in the sketches. In 1975 he directed his first movie for Monty Python, namely Monty Python and the Holy Grail. After his period with Monty Python, he moved on as independent director and had remarkable success with his bizarre masterpiece Brazil in 1985. After that success, things went downhill for Gilliam; The Adventures of Baron Munchausen became an expensive flop and the disastrous production of the never completed Don Quichotte became legendary. Despite these problems, Gilliam returned and directed a number of valuable contributions to cinema, including sci-fi masterpiece Twelve Monkeys and cult classic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Filmography: Storytime (1968, short) / The Miracle of Flight (1974, short) / Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) / Jabberwocky (1977) / Time Bandits (1981) / The Crimson Permanent Assurance (1983, short) / The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988) / The Fisher King (1991) / Twelve Monkeys (1995) / Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) / The Brothers Grimm (2005) / Tideland (2005) / The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009) / The Legend of Hallowdega (2010, short) / The Wholly Family (2011, short) / The Zero Theorem (2013) / The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018)

The Rum Diary



Director:
Bruce Robinson
Written by: Bruce Robinson (screenplay), Hunter S. Thompson (novel)
Cast: Johnny Depp, Amber Heard, Michael Rispoli, Aaron Eckhart

Year / Country: 2011, USA
Running Time: 115 mins.

The title ‘The Rum Diary’ can mean two things. Hunter S Thompson’s novel that is told in this movie or The San Juan Star, the near bankrupt Puerto Rican newspaper where main character Paul Kemp (Thompson’s alter ego) takes a job as journalist. Why? Because the entire writing staff is completely drunk. The same seems to apply for the whole population of Puerto Rico in the 1960’s, the setting of The Rum Diary.

This is a story about alcohol and lots of it. But, whenever Kemp takes time off of drinking, he engages in a compelling journalistic endeavor, shining light on the culture and problems of the relatively unknown country he resides in. This is also a love story. Kemp falls head over heels for the stunning Chenault, the girlfriend of corrupt businessman Sanderson, who wants Kemp to write stories in favor of his unethical real estate plans.

Kemp’s dilemma, going along with the flow or exposing the ‘bastards’ as he puts it, is the backbone of this movie. The pace is as relaxed as the setting and director Robinson succeeds well in translating the mood of Thompson’s novel to the white screen. The cast is on a roll as well. Depp, who once said he would like to play Thompson every few years, is solid as always. He gets excellent comic support from press associates Michael Rispoli, Richard Jenkins and Giovanni Ribisi. Amber Heard and Aaron Eckhart play Chenault and Sanderson, whose characters add the necessary intrigue and substance to the story.

Obviously this is no Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and the drug fuelled craziness portrayed in that movie is largely absent. This is Thompson Light; a smaller movie without too much excessive behavior. Director Robinson did add one pretty funny drug scene that can be considered as a wink to big brother Fear and Loathing. In The Rum Diary, the author Thompson is still searching for his unique voice and it is pleasant to join him on this quest. It is best to keep some rum within reach though as you might get thirsty underway.

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Biography: Bruce Robinson (1946, Broadstairs, Kent) started his career as an actor, but did not find it fulfilling nor lucrative. He started writing screenplays and in 1984, his Cambodia script The Killing Fields was turned into a memorable war movie by Roland Joffé. With his second script, he chose to direct himself. Withnail & I, which is largely autobiographical, became a cult classic. Robinson’s subsequent films, the advertising satire How To Get Ahead in Advertising and the serial-killer thriller Jennifer 8, while less memorable than his debut, still showed Robinson’s talents. In 2011 he brought The Rum Diary, a novel by legendary writer and Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, to the screen which received mixed reviews.

Filmography: Withnail & I (1987) / How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989) / Jennifer Eight (1992) / The 02Rum Diary (2011)

Where the Buffalo Roam

Director: Art Linson
Written by: Hunter S. Thompson (stories), John Kaye (screenplay)
Cast: Bill Murray, Peter Boyle, Bruno Kirby, R.G. Armstrong

Year / Country: 1980, USA
Running Time: 95 mins.

‘I hate to advocate weird chemicals, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone, but in my case it worked.’ Where the Buffalo Roam is the first movie adaptation of the work of legendary Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, who is portrayed by Bill Murray in the movie.

The story of Where the Buffalo Roam deals with Thompson’s encounters with his equally legendary ‘mutant’ attorney Oscar Zeta Acosta, who is called Carl Lazlo here and is portrayed by Peter Boyle. The movie is based on Thompson’s obituary for his attorney who disappeared in Mexico in 1974, three years after their two trips to Las Vegas that were immortalized in Thompson’s masterpiece ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’.

Screenplay writer John Kaye also drew from other works of Thompson, including ‘Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 72’’, ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ and ‘The Great Shark Hunt’. The final result depicts three journalistic adventures of Thompson in which Lazlo shows up. The first one involves San Francisco drug trials in which Lazlo represents wrongfully indicted youngsters. The second story shows Thompson missing the Super Bowl to accompany Lazlo on a failed activist mission. Finally, Thompson is seen on the presidential campaign where he has a one-on-one encounter with his self proclaimed nemesis Richard Nixon.

Most of the people involved, including Thompson himself, didn’t like the final result or even hated the movie. It is easy to see why. Much of Thompson’s razor sharp journalism resorts into a bunch of silliness. The second half is especially very uneven. Still, it is a lot of fun hearing a number of great Thompson quotes being uttered by Bill Murray, who’s excellent in the role of Gonzo journalist. Boyle is also enjoyable as his dope crazed attorney.

As a whole, the movie is indeed too silly to be perceived as a success or an effective movie translation of Thompson’s writing. However, separate parts range from funny to almost great. Especially the sequences in which Thompson has to meet deadlines, but is too preoccupied with weirdness and dope frenzies. Also includes an excellent soundtrack featuring: Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and Creedence Clearwater Revival.

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Biography: Art Linson (1942, Chicago) was born in Chicago, but grew up in Hollywood. He graduated from UCLA Law School in 1967 but never practiced. Linson has distinguished himself in Hollywood by developing scripts and stories that attract the highest caliber talent, resulting in some of the most admired and successful motion pictures of the last two decades, including Heat, Fight Club and The Untouchables. In 1995, Linson published his first book, ‘A Pound of Flesh: Perilous Tales of How to Produce Movies in Hollywood’. His second book, ‘What Just Happened? Bitter Hollywood Tales From the Front Line’, was published in 2002.

Filmography: Where the Buffalo Roam (1980) / The Wild Life (1984)