Tag Archives: Johnny Depp

Book Review: The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson

18 Jul

“I felt a tremendous distance between me and everything real.”

(The Rum Diary)

Rincón, Puerto Rico, picture found here.

Some time ago I watched the film “The Rum Diary”(2011) starring Johnny Depp as the main character Paul Kemp and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was just totally captivated by Kemp’s exciting lifestyle set against the vibrant backdrop of the Caribbean. The ocean, the sunsets, the rum…. ahhh. A few weeks ago, in these warm and yellow days of July, I decided to read the novel “The Rum Diary” written by Hunter S. Thompson. In took not three full pages for me to fall in love with it. I was especially intrigued by the fact that it wasn’t a work of pure fiction. Thompson actually lived and worked as a journalist in Puerto Rico in the late 1950s. He worked for the magazine El Sportivo which folded soon after his arrival but Thompson found another job as a journalist and managed to stay on the island long enough to gather inspiration for the novel which would spend almost forty years sitting in his drawer; it wasn’t published until 1998. The novel is based on Thompson’s adventures on the island, but is part-truth and part-fiction, written in the first person and told by a journalist Paul Kemp who comes to San Juan to work for the newspapers called San Juan Daily News.

“Like most of the others, I was a seeker, a mover, a malcontent, and at times a stupid hell-raiser. I was never idle long enough to do much thinking, but I felt somehow that my instincts were right. I shared a vagrant optimism that some of us were making real progress, that we had taken an honest road, and that the best of us would inevitably make it over the top. At the same time, I shared a dark suspicion that the life we were leading was a lost cause, that we were all actors, kidding ourselves along on a senseless odyssey. It was the tension between these two poles — a restless idealism on one hand and a sense of impending doom on the other — that kept me going.”

Thompson’s writing has the same qualities which I love and admire in Jack Kerouac’s novels; they both write in a fast-paced exciting style, they both brilliantly capture the atmosphere of the place, in Thompson’s case the vividness of San Juan, and they both have a similar type of character; young, wild, rebellious, idealist, wanting more from life but ultimately just wasting time on alcohol and women, characters who are prone to jumping from one thrill to another, because boredom equals death. No time to sleep – you’ll sleep when you’re dead. Life just seems so exciting in these novels, full or endless possibilities, and even a hangover seems like the most romantic thing in the world. Kemp is so excited about coming to the island and he says: “I wanted to write all my friends and invite them down. (…) I wanted to cable them all — “Come quick stop plenty of room in the rum barrel stop no work stop big money stop drink all day stop hump all night stop hurry it may not last.”

Picture found here.

Similar to Kerouac’s novel “Tristessa”, which I love, “The Rum Diary” captures the fragile moment in time. Two North Americans going down to more exotic southern places and writing about it. Kerouac spent a year in Mexico City and Thompson spent about two years in Puerto Rico. Their experiences are tied to a specific moment in time, had they gone to those places just five years later, nothing would be the same. Through Thompson’s writing you sense a layer of sadness under the ecstasy and drunkenness that he describes; a sense of going nowhere, growing old, time passing by… Perhaps this is the source of that rush to experience things which often leads to silly decisions. I also love the way Thompson describes the place; hot air, palm trees, narrow streets with buildings jammed together and balconies that hung over the street, chatter and music coming from open windows, narrow pavements where people sell peeled oranges for a nickel each, how he feels “the foreignness of the place”, he is specific with names of places and very observant to everything that is going on around him, the things he hears, the sights, the sounds, the smells:

“I leaned back in the chair and sipped my drink. The cook was banging around in the kitchen and for some reason the piano had stopped. From inside came a babble of Spanish, an incoherent background for my scrambled thoughts. For the first time I felt the foreignness of the place, the real distance I had put between me and my last foothold. There was no reason to feel pressure, but I felt it anyway — the pressure of hot air and passing time, an idle tension that builds up in places where men sweat twenty-four hours a day.

Hunter S. Thompson in Puerto Rico

There is also another aspect of the novel; the exploitation of the beauties and nature of the island, represented by the businessman Yeamon who befriends Kemp. The Americans from the mainland saw Puerto Rico as a source of their wealth, they planned to built hotels and exploit what there was to exploit and that makes me quite sad. “At that time the U.S. State Department was calling Puerto Rico “America’s advertisement in the Caribbean — living proof that capitalism can work in Latin America.”

In one part of the book, it’s described how the houses use to have a view of the ocean, but now the hotel at the beach has a view on the ocean, and the houses are looking at the hotel. If Capitalism isn’t devil’s idea, I don’t know what is. And now some fun and interesting quotes:

“There was a strange and unreal air about the whole world I’d come into. It was amusing and vaguely depressing at the same time. Here I was, living in a luxury hotel, racing around a half-Latin city in a toy car that looked like a cockroach and sounded like a jet fighter, sneaking down alleys and humping on the beach, scavenging for food in shark-infested waters, hounded by mobs yelling in a foreign tongue — and the whole thing was taking place in quaint old Spanish Puerto Rico, where everybody spent American dollars and drove American cars and sat around roulette wheels pretending they were in Casablanca. One part of the city looked like Tampa and the other part looked like a medieval asylum.”

“Sala’s apartment on Calle Tetuán was about as homey as a cave, a dank grotto in the very bowels of the Old City. It was not an upscale neighborhood. (…) The ceiling was twenty feet high, not a breath of clean air, no furniture except two metal cots and an improvised picnic table, and since it was on the ground floor we could never open the windows because thieves would come in off the street and sack the place. A week after Sala moved in he left one of the windows unlocked and everything he owned was stolen, even his shoes and his dirty socks. We had no refrigerator and therefore no ice, so we drank hot rum out of dirty glasses and did our best to stay out of the place as much as possible.”

“It was so hot that I began to sweat each time we stopped for a red light. Then, when we started moving again, the wind would cool me off. Sala weaved in and out of the traffic on Avenida Ponce de Leon, heading for the outskirts of town. Somewhere in Santurce we stopped to let some schoolchildren cross the street and they all began laughing at us. “La cucaracha!” they yelled. “Cucaracha! cucaracha!”

Sala looked embarrassed.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“The little bastards are calling this car a cockroach,” he muttered. “I should run a few of them down.”

***

“At six-thirty I left the bar and walked outside. It was getting dark and the big Avenida looked cool and graceful. On the other side were homes that once looked out on the beach. Now they looked out on hotels and most of them had retreated behind tall hedges and walls that cut them off from the street. Here and there I could see a patio or a screen porch where people sat beneath fans and drank rum. Somewhere up the street I heard bells, the sleepy tinkling of Brahms’ Lullaby.”

“After living there a week I’d established a fairly strict routine. I would sleep until ten or so, depending on the noise level in the street, then take a shower and walk up to Al’s for breakfast. With a few exceptions, the normal workday at the paper was from noon until eight in the evening, give or take a few hours either way. Then we would come back to Al’s for dinner. After that it was the casinos, an occasional party, or simply sitting at Al’s and listening to each other’s stories until we all got drunk and mumbled off to our beds. Sometimes I would go to Sanderson’s and usually there were people there to drink with.”

And now here is an exciting part of the book which matches the memorable scene in the film where Chenault (played by Amber Heard) is dancing in a very provocative way in a stuffy and crowded club on the isle of St Thomas:

“They had made a big circle, and in the middle of it. Chenault and the small, spade-bearded man were doing the dance. Chenault had dropped her skirt and was dancing in her panties and her white sleeveless blouse. Her partner had taken off his shirt exposing his glistening black chest. He wore nothing but a pair of tight, red toreador pants. Both of them were barefoot.”

(…) Now, as if in some kind of trance, Chenault began to unbutton her blouse. She popped the buttons slowly, like a practiced stripper, then flung the blouse aside and pranced there in nothing but her bra and panties. I thought the crowd would go crazy. They howled and pounded on furniture, shoving and climbing on each other to get a better view. The whole house shook and I thought the floor might cave in. Somewhere across the room I heard glass breaking.

(…) Now they were close together and I saw the brute reach around Chenault and unhook the strap of her bra. He undid it quickly, expertly, and she seemed unaware that now she wore nothing but her thin silk panties. The bra slid down her arms and fell to the floor. Her breasts bounced violently with the jerk and thrust of the dance. Full, pink-nippled halls of flesh, suddenly cut loose from the cotton modesty of a New York bra. (…)

Yeamon was screaming hysterically, struggling to keep his balance. “Chenault!” he shouted.

“What the hell are you doing?” He sounded desperate, but I felt paralyzed.

Pictures found here.

“They were coming together again, weaving slowly toward the middle of the circle. The noise was an overpowering roar from two hundred wild throats. Chenault still wore that dazed, ecstatic expression as the man reached out and eased her panties over her hips and down to her knees. She let them drop silently on the floor, then stepped away, breaking into the dance again, moving against him, freezing there for a moment — even the music paused — then dancing away, opening her eyes and flinging her hair from side to side.”

***

“Moberg was a degenerate. (…) Often he disappeared for days at a time. Then someone would have to track him down through the dirtiest bars in La Perla, a slum so foul that on maps of San Juan it appears as a blank space. La Perla was Moberg’s headquarters; he felt at home there, he said, and in the rest of the city — except for a few horrible bars — he was a lost soul.”

***

“Driving along the beach I remembered how much I’d enjoyed the mornings when I first came to San Juan. There is something fresh and crisp about the first hours of a Caribbean day, a happy anticipation that something is about to happen, maybe just up the street or around the next corner.”

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Ode to Tim Burton

24 Jan

Drawing is exercise for a restless imagination.‘ – Tim Burton

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The thing I love the most about Tim Burton is that he creates a whole new worlds in his movies. By watching any of them, you can simply dive into this new dimension, new aesthetic, new, crooked, vision of reality; Tim Burton’s reality. And his world is not dark and negative as one may think, quite the opposite, Tim Burton’s world is like a refuge for an outsider, magical and full of hope, dark and funny at the same time. As Burton had said himself ‘I am not a dark person and I don’t consider myself dark.‘ It’s the truth, Kafka’s work is dark and heavy, Burton’s is magical and inspirational.

I consider Tim Burton one of my greatest inspirations. He gave me the first vision of the Victorian era; a vision which has haunted me ever since. Although I’ve read a lot about Victorian era, and I know Burton’s version is not accurate, I prefer it above all. I like how he took the very essence of this time period and, combined with many other influences, created a new aesthetic. One can really say that something is in ‘Tim Burton’s style‘ for he created a world completely new, fresh and exciting which I think is hard to do in this modern world because everything has already been seen, and tried out. The modern man has dipped his finger in everything. There’s not a fresh well in art, music or literature, every one has by now been tainted by modern culture.

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The contrast between Classicism and Gothic Art, can be well translated onto the clash between the mainstream and Tim Burton. Where the Classicism was organised and proper, the Gothic was chaotic, where classic was pure and simple, the Gothic was crooked and ornate; the classics offered a world of clear rules and limits, whereas the Gothic represented something wild, exaggerated, dark and uncivilised. Classics represent the mainstream culture; unimaginative, worn-out ideas, conformity; a world created for mediocrity. On the other hand, Tim Burton’s world is a world of gothic fantasy, macabre, silly characters, with all the human flaws exposed in villains; it’s a world of outsiders, a world Burton had created for himself and that’s what makes it so genuine. His world is a reflection of who he is, and that’s how it should be with all the artists, directors, writers…

For me, Tim Burton epitomizes the very term of ‘modern Gothic‘ in a way that he perfectly captures the spirit of the Victorian era with obvious Gothic and Romantic elements, but all together, he succeeds in creating a magical, dreamy and spooky world of his own. He’s very good at reinterpreting the past, which is inevitable in art, and still managing to create something completely new and original.

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Burton was not only inspired by works of Edgar Allan Poe, Roald Dahl, and Edward Gorey, but also carried on with the style they had created, in Burton’s works enriched by the experience of living in an American suburb and being a loner. I already mentioned how I developed my first vision of the Victorian era as a result of watching Tim Burton’s movies, and although I’ll basically watch any movie that he directs, some are more dear to me than the others.

To tell it bluntly, I was reborn after seeing Sweeney Todd for the first time! This movie enchanted me, I knew all the songs by heart and sang them all they long, I drew the characters, I wrote many short stories based on that ‘Burton’s Victorian London‘. I can’t even put it in words how much it influenced me in everything that I’ve done, and how it affects my work now still. Other movies that I really loved would probably be Corpse Bride and Sleepy Hollow, not to mention Frankenweenie and Alice in Wonderland.

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Another thing that I find inspirational about Tim Burton are his drawings, for really, there lays the whole essence of his later projects. Everything begins on the paper, and it is clear from the style of his movies that they developed from his love of drawing. ‘Don’t worry about how you ‘should’ draw it. Just draw it the way you see it.‘ This Burton’s quote has inspired me to really draw what comes out of my mind, no matter what it is, and to be more focused on creating a new world for myself and fulfilling the needs of my imagination than on the final result.

Tim Burton’s style is very recognisable, full of figures with big sad eyes, whirlwinds, swirls, long dark hallways, winding staircases, weird monsters, candles, skeletons, graveyards, etc. He mostly uses dark, dreamy colours such as black, purple, blue, crimson red, white, but many vivid colours too, depending on the effect he’s trying to create. Time and the setting don’t even matter when it comes to Burton’s movies, his characters live in their own universe. What started as weird and unconventional childish drawings developed into a whole new imaginary world that draws people in with its appealing aesthetics and interesting characters.

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The word normal always scares me.‘ – Tim Burton

Dark Shadows – Tim Burton meets Psychedelia

14 Sep

In August I’ve finally watched Tim Burton’s film Dark Shadows (2012) and it fulfilled all the expectations I have of this brilliant director.

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Always expecting the best from one of my favourite film directors – Tim Burton, I naturally had great expectations out of this film. My high hopes have happily been fulfilled for I am very pleased what this movie has to offer; it’s very Burton styled, it has witty dialogues, great costumes designed by Collen Atwood and most importantly for me – it binds together typical Burton’s gothic aesthetics with psychedelia of the 1972, that is, the year the movie is set in. That’s a perfect combination for me, and I confess that, since I love 1960s and early ’70s hippie fashion, I’ve often wondered how would Tim Burton combine it, and that I’ve seen what kind of costumes did Collen design I am very much inspired in fashion sense. What’s very funny to me in the movie is Barnabas’ mindset that is trapped in the 18th century and his first meeting with the completely different culture of 1972. is hilarious. Barnabas is fascinated with things that are completely foreign to him at the same time; music, television, cars and hippie (the unshaven young people, as he calls them).

Collinswood is such a lovely estate, I would love to have been able to grow up in such an old mansion, especially if its wooden carvings would also come alive at night. Aesthetics of the movie are very inspirational for me; from costumes to the amazing decorations and family portraits. Collinswood is a mansion whose grand halls I would love to wonder through, whose candles I’d enjoy lighting, from whose windows I’d gaze to the wilderness. I can imagine myself having Carolyn’s bedroom; a psychedelic style decorated room with yellow carpet, vivid purple walls covered with posters of Iggy Pop and various other musicians of the time. It’s very bright, groovy, colourful and inspirational.

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What’s also very interesting about the film are the characters that are all very personalised; they have minds of their own, and their fashion styles perfectly match their personalities. There are five femmes in the movie and all of them have a different fashion style, all of which I like except Angelique’s because hers is very bold and matches her evil, cruel personality.

Elizabeth Stoddard, Carolyn’s mother, is a Collins family matriarch and a very strong-willed and active woman, most of all loyal to her family. Michelle Pfeiffer was excellent in this role; she carried herself with dignity and elegance, while still being rather conservative, intuitive, stern and strict. Her fashion style goes in hand with her personality. Elizabeth certainly couldn’t be pictured wearing hippie garments her daughter is seen in, no, her style is quite the opposite; she almost all the time wears very 1940s revival dresses in solid colours. bishop sleeves and nice necklaces, accompanied by very stylish, also ’40s style, high heeled shoes.

Dark Shadows

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Dark Shadows

Elizabeth’s fifteen year old daughter Carolyn is a typical teenage girl; isolated, rebellious and misunderstood. She is usually found listening to music or dancing on s0me psychedelic tunes, dressed in colourful and groovy hippie clothes. I very much like her style; her vivid coloured tights, big leather belts, floral printed shirts and dresses that usually have an interesting cut.

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Victoria Winters is a polite, gentle, proper and introverted young lady, but only on the first sight. She actually has secrets of her own; she escaped a mental institution her parents placed her into because she had a gift of speaking with ghosts and is in fact some kind of reincarnation of Josette, Barnabas’ love from the eighteenth century. Victoria’s fashion style, again, reflects her personality; she’s usually dressed in neat, proper school-girl styled dresses and shirts.

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Julia Hoffman, played by Helena Bonham Carter, is rather vain and laid back family doctor, always sleeping one of her legendary hangovers. Her style matches the bohemianism and casual attitude connected to her personality and she’s often seen wearing interesting piece dresses, some of which resemble Biba style that was popular at the time in UK, combined with sunglasses, bold make up and sometimes a pair of knee high socks.

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