For No Good Reason, Blu-ray (2014)

For No Good Reason, Blu-ray (2014)

Cast: Ralph Steadman, Johnny Depp, Richard E. Grant, Terry Gilliam
Director: Charlie Paul
Studio: Itch Film/ Sony Pictures Home Ent. 44217 [9/2/14] (Blu-ray & DVD)
Video: 1.78:1 anamorphic/enhanced for 16:9 1080p HD color
Audio: English & English Audio Description DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French
All regions
Extras: Commentary track by Charlie Paul and Producer Lucy Paul, Cherrywood Cannon animated short, Deleted scenes, Extended interviews from film, Q & A from Toronto Int. Film Festival (Steadman & Paul), Previews
Length: 89 minutes
Rating: ****1/2

A fascinating documentary shot over a period of 15 years, in Steadman’s studio as well as where the various talking heads were located. The British artist’s fame came from his association with the wild Hunter Thompson and their combination of gonzo reporting together with the surreal, furious drawings by Steadman. This already has resulted in a feature film based on their most famous collaboration, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Steadman narrates some of the film himself, and we see him at work, often using the overhead camera which filmmaker Paul installed above where he does most of his work. Johnny Depp provides a sort of “audience” but doesn’t participate much; he’s a friend of Steadman. Among the other talking heads of interest are Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner, music producer Hal Willner and actor Tim Robbins. Director and Monty Python member Terry Gilliam sees himself as similar to Steadman and certainly his films have been affected by the righteous fury of some of Steadman’s images. (Gilliam came out from behind his animation camera and performed onstage in the final Monty Python show the group just mounted in London.) Steadman’s use of paint splatters elevates that technique to a high art, and Gilliam mentions how some of Steadman’s drawings seem to encapsulate movement similar to an animated film, which such drawings aren’t supposed to do.

Some of his drawings are given some basic animation thruout the film, but I really enjoyed (being an animation fan) the short Cherrywood Cannon, which was animated in a limited, stylized style, by an unnamed person. It seems to bring together not only the unique appearance of Steadman’s drawings (which look like no one else’s), but also much of his anti-war, anti-violence philosophical stance. There is also a section of the film which goes into the Leonardo da Vinci book which Steadman wrote and illustrated, which I just finished and found a masterpiece. Now I want to get ahold of the illustrations he did for Alice in Wonderland, which Gilliam said he has framed and hung around his place. Seeing some of the original drawings is great, such as those that were later turned into the CGI reptile-people in the bar in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

There’s some interesting footage of the late Thompson, including one of their evidently frequent disagreements, when Thompson objected strongly to Steadman’s saying that nobody would have read Thompson’s articles were it not for Steadman’s outrageous illustrations. Another bone to pick between them (altho on one level they made a terrific pair) was Thompson’s totally out of control drug and alchohol-taking, whereas Steadman limited himself to overdoing just the drinking.

The extras with these discs are nearly as good as those with Criterion releases, and altogether the film is an important and inspiring view of the most unusual man behind the legend.

—John Sunier

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