Last Saturday I walked into an elevator amid the usual Northbridge debris and emerged in a cinematic wonderland. Charming caravans dotted the rooftop – acting as ticketing booth, projector room and small bar. Kitsch plastic flamingos were affixed to palm trees, strings of lights glittered overhead. ARTRAGE have nailed a retro carnival atmosphere.
Abbe May was performing original songs and covers, including soulful renditions of The Black Keys ‘Lonely Boy’ and Muddy Waters ‘I Just Want to Make Love to You’. By her own admission, a bottle of champagne may not have been the smartest pre-show beverage but her audience was entranced nonetheless.
Collecting the soft drink and popcorn being a skipper entitles you to, I noticed the bar staff partaking in a nip of what appeared to be whisky. Who could blame them? A rooftop cinema, though a welcome addition to Perth’s nightlife, is not the ideal place to embrace autumn.
Favouring a front-row beanbag over the nautical themed deck-chairs, I snuggled under my blanket in front of the stacked sea-containers that act as a screen. The scent of Uncle Billy’s Chinese restaurant wafted in the wind while I took in the voyeuristic 360 degree vista of the surrounding city skyline buildings.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey into the Heart of the American Dream is a prime example of a movie that can flop at the box office yet become a cult classic. Based on a book by the same name by the late gonzo-journalist, Hunter S Thompson, it was first published in Rolling Stone magazine in 1971 but wasn’t adapted to the screen until 1998.
The Samuel Johnson quote displayed at the start, “He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man” encapsulates the films ideology and plot. Thompson’s representation, Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) and his attorney, Doctor Gonzo (Benicio del Toro), take two trips to Las Vegas – the first to cover a desert race for Sports Illustrated magazine, the second to report on the National District Attorneys Associations Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Conference. These excursions are hedonistic, self-indulgent and at times genuinely horrifying forays into the depths of drug-induced depravity.
“We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a saltshaker half-full of cocaine and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers…a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of beer, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls. Not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get locked into a serious drug collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can.”
The flux in narration between Thompson’s internal or spoken dialogue and voice-over, when coupled with the films surreal imagery, makes it impossible to differentiate between actual experience and the imagined – between reality and an illusion. The result is a confusing, hilarious and terrifying depiction of the limits of the human psyche, as well as a troubled yet brilliant mans aggressive confrontation with a post-war American culture of excess and consumption.
By Lisa Morrison.