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."

3 comments: said...

Left out of the Van Zandt praisers was one Emmylou Harris, surely superior to Lovett and Kristofferson, peer to Earle and Nelson, and possessor of the most elegant version of "Poncho & Lefty", which she still does in concert to this day.

skylolo99 said...

Love that Hunter S Thompson documentary especially the scenes in his home where he is just hanging out sitting on his stool bnaging on his gag hammer from Spencer's gifts ...sublime.

skylolo99 said...

PS- no disrespect meant but you are out of your friggin mind. While Steve Earle is one of my favorite singer/songwriters in the world, Lyle Lovett is every bit the peer to him, Emmylou, and Willy.
I saw Lyle play with John Hyatt, Guy Clark and Joe Ely a couple of years back and his moments on stage shined really really bright. However, Guy Clark did steal the show.