Monday, February 19, 2007
Lust For Life
Apparently, dead men do indeed tell tales, or at least the posthumous documentaries made about them manage to allow a certain dialogue to swirl up from the dust kicking around the ol'lost highway. Venerated songwriter, cult figure, and lifetime misfit Townes Van Zandt gets his dues in "Be Here To Love Me", an ambling and blackly funny doc about the virtual godfather of alternative country, a singer/songwriter held in the highest esteem by the likes of Steve Earle, Lyle Lovett, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson. Van Zandt fought the demons of booze, drugs, and mental illness his whole life, fashioning a non-career out a handful of obscure releases and one giant songwriting hit "Pancho and Lefty" The doc has some great home movie footage, plus some neat performance stuff, and the chorus of talking heads, particularly comrade-in-arms Guy Clark, wax eloquent about the guy with a plaintive mixture of irony and regret. Everybuddy knows the basic tale of Hunter Thompson, Gonzo King, and "Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride", is another doc marked by gallows humor, ostensibly celebrating a writer, his lifestyle, and the damnable trappings of fame. Although a parade of Hollywood hipsters fill the screen (Gary Busey, John Cusack, Sean Penn, Little Johny Depp, Harry Dean Stanton, Benecio Del Toro, with death rattle narration provided by Nick Nolte) some of the more intriguing commentary is provided by William Buckley and George McGovern. The doc's real highlight is the hilarious juxtaposition of Bill Murray and Johnny Depp doing their respective on-screen Hunters alongside footage of the reel thang. For a whole lotta of us who growed-up in the 60's and 70's there will never be anything quite like initially discovering Thompson and his fuel charged stylings, and this doc only makes you wanna dive right back into his incendiary and laff-riot prose. Of course my man Iggy ain't dead yet, although he's clawed his way outta the clammy grave a few times, and he's front and center in this month's (March) Esquire, being the subject of the rag's regularly featured "What I've Learned". A few pithy excerpts: "I'm not a one-trick pony. I've had my picture in People magazine vacuuming the floor.", "I was lucky. I'd seen my own vomit and it was green.", "I really don't want to crawl under the table and shiver and see little mice running under my eyes for the next fourteen hours.", "I have no idea why a guy would bring a jar of peanut butter to a concert."