The Causes of Headaches?

American (Fever) Dream: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

American (Fever) Dream: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Thank you to Squarespace for sponsoring this
video. Like many great films, Fear and Loathing in
Las Vegas wasn’t exactly appreciated or understood in its time, it was a critical and commercial
failure upon release, with many calling it pointless, repetitive, and in the words of
one critic “One long offensive treatise on just how vile two human beings can be.” What’s strange to me is that Hunter S. Thompson’s
original novel received widespread acclaim. Many writers and journalists consider it to
be a seminal piece of American literature, with Cormac McCarthy calling it a classic
of our time. So, was something just lost in translation? By all accounts its a largely faithful adaptation,
with many of the scenes lifted directly from the novel as well as other works by Hunter
S. Thompson, and with some of its most iconic passages being used almost verbatim in the
film, it seems odd that what people seemed to love so much about the original work was
exactly what people seemed to deride in the film. And maybe it’s because novels are inherently
infused with our own imagination, something that a film can’t accomplish in the same way,
or maybe it’s just a story that works better as text. The film to me is a masterpiece, that has
a visual bravura that few films can match, with some of the greatest character performances
from two actors at the top of their game. It’s often hilarious, and at times incredibly
uncomfortable, and always unlike any other film that I’ve ever seen. The film is a ride, that offers an unflinching
portrait of psychedelic drug use and the death of the American Dream. It’s not always meant to be just fun and games,
as Terry Gilliam states: “We start out at full speed and it’s WOOOO! The drug kicks in and you’re on speed! Whoah! You get the buzz – it’s crazy, it’s outrageous,
the carpet’s moving and everybody’s laughing and having a great time. But then, ever so slowly, the walls start
closing in and it’s like you’re never going to get out of this fucking place. It’s an ugly nightmare and there’s no escape.” – Terry Gilliam
The film makes use of many different techniques to simulate disorienting experience of the
different drugs used in the film. Whether that’s the almost ever-present Dutch
angle, shifting lighting that doesn’t exactly make practical sense, or manipulating the
sound to create unease. For instance, as Duke and Gonzo load up on
ether, listen to the constant shifting pitch of the background music. Each drug had its own accompanying cinematic
language to convey its effects, as highlighted in the American Cinematographer, they are
as follows: ether (“loose depth of field; everything becomes non-defined”), adrenochrome
(“everything gets narrow and claustrophobic, move closer with lens”), mescaline (“colors
melt into each other, flares with no sources, play with color temperatures”), amyl nitrate
(“perception of light gets very uneven, light levels increase and decrease during the shots”),
and LSD (“expanded consciousness, everything extremely wide, hallucinations via morphs,
shapes, colors and sound”). One of the benefits of the film’s style was
being able to get away with some less than ideal techniques to accomplish certain tasks. Like the outdated rear-projection technique
used to simulate driving through Las Vegas. Or the frequent use of ADR, which stands for
Automated Dialogue Replacement, it’s what filmmakers resort to when they weren’t quite
happy with the audio of a given take and have the actors re-record their lines in a sound
booth, normally the goal is to blend it perfectly so the audience doesn’t know it wasn’t the
original recording, but there are many times where the audio in Fear and Loathing doesn’t
quite match up with the way the characters mouths are moving, which normally would be
a problem, but it just adds to the feeling of disorientation of the film. Though, the visual quality of the film was
actually one of the few things that most critics at the time praised, the point of contention
for most seemed to be that the visuals weren’t in service of anything valuable, just to act
as a depiction of two men twisted on drugs, but for those who can look past all of the
hedonistic indulgence, you can see that there’s a lot more going on underneath the surface. I’d compare it to Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf
of Wall Street, interestingly enough Scorcese actually tried to get his own adaptation of
Thompsons novel off the ground, with Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando to play the leads
before abandoning the project. But both deal with excess in all its forms,
to serve as a commentary on the perversion of the American Dream. The subtitle of Thompson’s original novel
claims as much with the phrase “A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream”. Duke and Gonzo dive headlong into the frenzied
world of Las Vegas, confronted with the harsh reality that the love generation, with all
its speed and momentum, was coming to an abrupt stop. “We were riding the crest of a high and beautiful
wave- so now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas
and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high water mark-
that place where the wave finally broke, and rolled back.” There was a social revolution happening in
the 1960’s, the hippie counter-culture was gaining momentum, with its focus aimed at
civil rights and Anti-War protests, sexual liberation and exploring altered states of
consciousness. And for all intents and purposes, they were
winning. But it didn’t last. Growing contempt for the hippie community
from nearly every group of society,(from the conservatives to the skinheads,) the ever-expanding
war on drugs, and acts of violence within the community like that of the Altamont Free
Concert or the Manson Family muders began the downfall of the movement, the wave that
finally broke and rolled back. And soon, the promises of the movement lay
neglected and unfullfilled, with consumerism and excess becoming the nation’s standard. And nowhere was that more evident than in
Las Vegas. “Who are these people, these faces? Where do they come from? They look like caricatures of used car dealers
from Dallas, and sweet Jesus, there were a hell of a lot of them at 4:30 on a Sunday
morning, still humping the American dream, that vision of the big winner somehow emerging
from the last minute pre-dawn chaos of a stale Vegas casino.” The American Dream is the ethos of the United
States, the ideals and values of a nation that claims that anyone should have the opportunity
to create a better life for themselves, for their children, regardless of sex or race
or class or religion. Outlined in the Declaration of Independence
with the proclamation that all men are created equal, given inalienable rights to life, liberty,
and the pursuit of happiness. But it had become clear to many that these
rights didn’t seem to apply to the black community, or the gay and transgender communities, or
just about anyone else who wasn’t white or Christian or male. Not to mention the class systems, that were
becoming increasingly divided, and increasingly harder to rise above. Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges
wrote in his book “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt” “The vaunted American dream, the idea that
life will get better, that progress is inevitable if we obey the rules and work hard, that material
prosperity is assured, has been replaced by a hard and bitter truth. The American dream, we now know, is a lie. We will all be sacrificed. The virus of corporate abuse – the perverted
belief that only corporate profit matters – has spread to outsource our jobs, cut the
budgets of our schools, close our libraries, and plague our communities with foreclosures
and unemployment.” “There’s a reason they call it the American
Dream, you’ve gotta be asleep to believe it.” This is the hard and bitter truth explored
in both the novel, and the film. The tired faces, fat and drunk, throwing their
money into a rigged game that can only crown a winner when everyone else loses. A place where abhorrent behavior is tolerated
as long as you cut them a deal. A culture of hypocrisy that says these vices
are okay, but these will land you in prison. Las Vegas is the perfect amalgamation of the
real face of American values, a place that thrives on chaos and greed, that promises
all of the comfort and luxury you could imagine, provided you can afford the price of admission. Where had we gone wrong as a nation? Where war was once something to be avoided,
now it was a tool for policital influence. Nixon lied to the American people, claiming
to want to bring an end to the war, only to sabotage peace efforts so when elected he
could be the one written in the history books. And instead of pulling out of Vietnam, we
invaded Laos and Cambodia, bringing more death and destruction in a war that no one wanted
to begin with. “Nixon represents the dark side of the
American Dream…(rest of quote) As to the question of where things went wrong,
it’s hard to say exactly. Political bias, ignorance on behalf of the
American people, blind trust in the democratic system that failed us. But the blame did not solely rest on the conservative
and right leaning members of society, as evident in Raoul Duke’s final speech in the film. “All those pathetically eager acid freaks
who thought they could buy Peace and Understanding for three bucks a hit. But their loss and failure is ours too. What Leary took down with him was the central
illusion of a whole life-style that he helped create… a generation of permanent cripples,
failed seekers, who never understood the essential old-mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture: the
desperate assumption that somebody… or at least some force — is tending the light at
the end of the tunnel.” What I think contributes to Fear and Loathing’s
longevity, is its ability to confront these heavy subjects, to find the humor within,
and to do so in a way that’s critical of both sides. There’s something endlessly satisfying about
watching two guys, twisted out of their minds, trying to navigate this strange landscape,
confused and terrified at every turn. Because whether your drug of choice is LSD,
or alcohol, or sugar, aren’t we all wandering aimlessly, with no clue what the Hell is going
on, just trying to find some peace of mind or some sort of escape from the terrible circus
that surrounds us? Without Squarespace’s support, these last
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Reader Comments

  1. Thank you for watching! Last episode I mentioned the possibility of covering this film if there was enough interest, and oh boy was there! You guys showed more enthusiasm than I ever expected, so this one's for you lovely people! I think the movie often gets a bad rap, and I think it should absolutely be a film on everyone's radar, so here it is, the video you guys have been waiting for! I hope you enjoyed it! Again, a big thank you to Squarespace for sponsoring this video, without whom these videos wouldn't be coming out as consistently. Be sure to head over to to get your free trial and discount!

  2. The book being published in 1971 with open minded ppl walking the earth had the attention of the US population. The film coming out in 1998 with the war on drugs and politics hell bend on falsely proving marijuana was a gateway drug. This was the reason the ever wrong film critics could speak so close minded on such a fantastic movie. My brother showed me this film in 1998 on a VHS which by then I had experienced ecstasy, mescaline and magic mushrooms which had opened my mind to what many ppl have never seen. A different reality that was right under everyone's nose and one that could teach with no words spoken how to be a good human amongst such self centered P.O.S. I love the film and watch it once a year to remind my ever aging body not to be an old sheep set in my pointless ways. The key to the clean drugs of the past that was a positive benefit when this film and book came out was before the 9-11-01. It was a diff place, America at that time was a "free" nation that no one that wasn't a teenager at that time could understand. I watched the film in awe and religiously protected the tape when given the chance to watch it. It's a massive piece of my personal history and there is just not enough space to explain this film and book on a YouTube thread. I did try but most likely failed.

  3. Huh, i see what you are saying. If you like, you could make a similar transgression to the social changes that the UK went through from 1979 onwards. You know the transformation from what we were, to the greed culture and beyond. Very sad. And hardly anyone here in the UK can afford the ticket. Let alone take the ride. BUT THEY DO. Escapism? No. They just want to have the small amount of experience. A thrill. It isn't real life, but they don't care because real life SUCKS. (For the majority of us).

  4. Critics are useless at their jobs. I dont understand why anyone listens to the opinion of them.
    Now no one would understand this movie if they didnt know what hunter did or the way he lived. Secondly, unless you have done psychedelics i doubt any of it would make any sense. Its brilliantly well done and as always Johnny Depp was awesome in it playing him

  5. "Where havr we gone wrong as a nation?"
    When white men decided to take the land from the natives is where it all want wrong. The white men have owned all you Americans and the land since then. Greed and vanity is a deadly game for those not invited.

  6. I love the novel, and love Terry Gilliams other films – notably 12 Monkeys and Brazil – But I'm not a fan of Fear and Loathing… I find it's a bit hokey, goofy and stylistically shallow, and lacks the true subjective horror of the novel. Depps performance is more of a comic burlesque of Thompson's mannerisms than an actual dramatic performance, and when I found out that John Cusack was originally cast as Raoul Duke, I couldn't help think he would've done a better job. Cusack would've brought something heavier and more dramatic to the role, I think.

  7. No one will appreciate it unless you were in the drug culture. And Hunter S. Thomson. My favorite movies. I asked several ppl what theirs was. It took men3 days to realize. This is.

  8. Reckless self-destruction at the feet of Mammon was too much for the media to translate into a palpable serving for the masses, so Fear and Loathing was dismissed as a movie 'about drugs.'
    PS None of this really happened. It was just a story Hunter concocted for Rolling Stone. Unfortunately, the unwieldy power of myth has its own rules and Hunter, like narcissist, ultimately, tragically, drowned in the pool of his own reflection.

  9. with the novel everyone focused on the fun of the psychedelic experience,the ones who gave it bad reviews have probably never touched LSD or any of these drugs in their life,you have to remember that it's 2 different generations and the critics of the film grew up with the "drugs are bad" generation..whereas those who love the novel and movie understand drugs can't be good or bad they're simply tools

  10. Wonderful opening here. I have the soundtrack and I may listen to it later this evening. I don't agree that this adaptation is a masterpiece. The book was a masterpiece. This work falls short by a long measure. 'Where the Buffalo Roam' was a more entertaining experience. Audiences and critics avoided both movies, of course, but the Bill Murray vehicle was a loose freewheeling funride that held my interest time and time again. Gilliam's interpretation is colorful and splashy but… it's damn-hard to locate its centre, its heart, its point. It looks gorgeous but the Red Shark may be running on empty.

  11. The ending of this movie with Jumpin Jack Flash and Duke driving off into the desert saying that amazing line "Just another freak, in the Freak Kingdom" always gives me goosebumps.

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