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Johnny Depp and Ralph Steadman

Johnny Depp and Ralph Steadman

“FOR NO GOOD REASON” My rating: B  (Opens June 13 at the Tivoli)

89 minutes | MPAA rating: R

For many of us it is impossible to separate the savagely witty, nightmarish, splattery cartoons and illustrations of Ralph Steadman from the gonzo journalism of the late Hunter Thompson.

In 1970 the American Thompson and the Brit Steadman formed a partnership to write and illustrate a story about their trip to the Kentucky Derby. They hit the big time two years later with  Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,  Thompson’s drug-saturated novel inspired by his Rolling Stone assignment to cover a convention of police chiefs in Sin City.

Steadman’s bizarre, jagged, horrific illustrations were the perfect visual counterpart to Thompson’s words. The pair seemed to have been made for each other.

There’s a bit of  vintage footage in Charlie Paul’s “For No Good Reason” showing Thompson’s indignant reaction to Steadman’s assertion that his jump-off-the-bookshelf cover art is the main reason Fear and Loathing became a best seller.  The public only began reading the book, Steadman teases, after being attracted by his art.

It’s a moment that in many ways encapsulizes the relationship.  Steadman and Thompson (who committed suicide a few years back) needed each other. The artist calls the writer “the one man I needed to meet in America.”  Together they were an unbeatable team. Then they spent decades as near rivals, trying to establish their own independent identities.

As you’d expect, that love/hate partnership takes up a good chunk of Charlie Paul’s documentary.  But the film also shows that Ralph Steadman is a man of many parts: a political satirist in the spirit of Daumier, Nast, and Goya; a social activist; a visual experimenter. He also seems like a genuinely nice fellow.

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