For No Good Reason Blu-ray Review
Sometimes it starts with just a splash of paint, flicked off the brush with a quick snap of the wrist. But what it becomes is often another masterpiece from the mind of artist Ralph Steadman, a man who found himself teamed with the late Hunter S. Thompson in the 1960s and who created some of the most iconic images ever put on paper.
Narrated by Johnny Depp, a longtime friend of Thompson who portrayed the writer on film in Terry Gilliam’s FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, FOR NO GOOD REASON takes a look at a man I would consider Thompson’s artistic equal. Both men had a penchant for drink and mischief and, when paired together, helped each create some of their best work. Where Thompson would look at the outrageousness of the situations he was writing about Steadman would present it visually with his illustrations.
Steadman, who states at the beginning of the film that all he wanted to do was “change the world,’ grew up in England and found himself doing cartoons for various publications. When a book of his work was published he used it as his calling card and headed to New York City, where he photographed and sketched the city as he saw it. A chance phone call from a friend informed him that a writer named Hunter S. Thompson needed a photographer to accompany him to the upcoming Kentucky Derby. Steadman agreed and magic was created. Later trips, whether to cover competitive boat racing or spending time in Zaire to cover the famed “Rumble in the Jungle” (Steadman reports that, as soon as they landed, Thompson bought a large paper bag full of pot), helped cement the friendship between the author and the artist. We get to listen to a profanity filled tirade left on Steadman’s answering machine by the Gonzo journalist, with Thompson rattling off every variation of the “F” word that he can, but then ending the message with a polite, “ok Ralph, call me.”
A conversation with “Rolling Stone” editor Jann Wenner gives a great insight into the relationship between Steadman and Thompson. Some may have found it foolish to send these two around the world on an expense account but the work they delivered was worth more than any padded room service bill.
And while we get to talk to others that have influenced, and been influenced by Steadman (Gilliam, author William S. Burroughs) the best parts of the film are dedicated to Steadman creating his work. Literally splashing a canvas with a splotch of black paint will become, in time, a fully designed painting. It is when we get to watch the master at work that the film works best. Influenced by one of his artistic idols, Leonardo Di Vinci, Steadman sets out to recreate “The Last Supper” and does a brilliant job. Depp can only stand in awe as he witnesses the great man at work. As will you. It is clear that Steadman has more than achieved the goal he set for himself.
FOR NO GOOD REASON BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: Presented in its original 1:78.1 aspect ratio, the transfer is fine. Some of the footage used (Super 8, etc) that was transferred shows its age but the computer renderings of Steadman and his artwork jump off screen.
Audio: Presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, the sound is clear and sharp. Steadman is a gregarious speaker and he comes across loud and clear. Depp, on the other hand, speaks softly so you may have to adjust your volume during your viewing.
Audio Commentary: Producer Lucy Paul and director Charlie Paul deliver a very in-depth commentary on how the film was made and is a “must listen.”
Toronto International Film Festival Q&A (28:21): Moderated by John Northcott, Steadman and director Paul answer questions after the film’s premiere.
Cherrywood Cannon (7:28): A presentation of an animated version of Ralph Steadman’s book.
Extended Interviews with: Bruce Robinson (6:02), Richard E. Grant (3:36) and Terry Gilliam (8:27)
Deleted Scenes (18:49): “Art School,” “Ralph’s Song,” “Ralph’s Studio,” “Dogs,” “Cathedrgog” and “The Blot Symphony”. Interesting but not missed.