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For No Good Reason (2012)

J.A.A. Purves

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From IMDB -

For No Good Reason a film about Ralph Steadman. Johnny Depp guides the visually stunning journey, smashing narrative conventions, moving seamlessly from interview to animation and in the finest Gonzo tradition questions of witness and authenticity are challenged. Steadman's art is for the first time animated, including illustrations from Hunter S Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vagas. Featuring Richard E Grant, Terry Gilliam, Bruce Robinson and with music from Slash, The All American Rejects, Jason Mraz, Crystal Castles, Ed Hardcourt and Beth Orton. A touching and at times funny film about honesty, friendship and the ambition driving an artist. This is a true record of the demise of the 20th Century counterculture and hipster dream with Ralph Steadman the last of the Gonzo visionaries.
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  • 4 months later...

Robert Chalmers just wrote quite an enjoyable essay in The Independent:

... A new biographical film of Steadman, For No Good Reason, directed by Charlie Paul, which had its premier last autumn at the London Film Festival, will be released on both sides of the Atlantic later this year. An intimate and faithful portrait of the artist, it begins with him explaining his painting technique, as he works on a single image, to Johnny Depp, in the painter's Kent studio. (The two first met at Owl Farm, Hunter Thompson's home in Woody Creek, a decade before Depp played the writer in Terry Gilliam's 1998 film of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.) Fifteen years in the making, it's a brilliant piece of work by Paul, who had the courage to abandon the current trend for interspersing his narrative with innumerable testimonials from professional talking heads, as though the main subject required constant validation. The conversation between Depp and Steadman, which ties the film together, offers exactly the same kind of fascinating insight that anyone who has sat at the artist's shoulder as he works will recognise.

... Whether you judge him on his classic artwork in books such as Alice in Wonderland, Treasure Island and Animal Farm, or the grotesque visions that inhabit his original paintings, Steadman is a phenomenon of the kind that barely exists any more: a highly successful artist who has scorned the account-executive instincts of the arbiters of taste in the British art market. His reputation as a serious painter has suffered grievously as a result of his background as a cartoonist and illustrator.

"He is a supreme talent," says Bruce Robinson, friend and director of Withnail & I and The Rum Diary. "I feel so fortunate to know him, because at his best, which is most of the time, he has the power of Goya. I don't say that lightly. He really does. There is no living artist in his league that I know of." In the foreword to Steadman's 2006 memoir The Joke's Over, Kurt Vonnegut described him as: "The most gifted and effective existential artist of my time."

... It's curious, I suggest to Steadman, that it can take many decades for subsequent generations of critics to determine what is really great art. Writing such as "The Pro-Flogging View", or Thompson's majestically vitriolic Rolling Stone obituary of Richard Nixon have already assured his place in the history of great satirists. In the domain of pure fiction – the area in which he most craved success, with tales such as The Rum Diary – he may be less fortunate.

Where his own career is concerned, Ralph Steadman is fond of remarking, he tried, as a cartoonist, to change the world, "and yet failed". As a serious artist, I suggest, posterity is likely to be infinitely more generous to him than the current generation of critics, some of whom have been snobbish to the point of insult about his newspaper origins ...

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