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Fear and Loathing in a Documentary

‘For No Good Reason’ goes skin-deep on Ralph Steadman

June 3, 2014, 12:00 am

What a dull story it would be if the man who drew iconic images for some of Hunter S Thompson’s books was as crazy as Thompson. Fortunately, Ralph Steadman seems like a nice, ordinary guy—at least as he’s presented in For No Good Reason—who, through satire, happens to get to the guts of his subjects in a way that is real, complete and uncompromising.

For No Good Reason is a standard latter-day documentary. The subject is revered (not always a bad thing), and no one has a negative thing to say about him. And watching Steadman work, like watching any artist who isn’t a writer work, is thrilling. He produces a new piece in the course of the movie, and when Johnny Depp isn’t asking irritating questions, it will hold your attention.

Steadman explains his career well enough, though like lots of artists, he has several I-don’t-know-how-I-did-that moments. But he seems genuine, and his portfolio is endless (there’s a healthy sampling of his 1970s work here). When he opines on Thompson, he becomes mildly taciturn and even a little melancholy. But what can one expect?

If only For No Good Reason had been a critical appraisal, it might be more interesting than it is. Steadman is a great subject, but no one wants to go too deep. The art is great, though.

 

FOR NO GOOD REASON

Directed by Charlie Paul

With Ralph Steadman and Johnny Depp

CCA Cinematheque

R
89 min.

 

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