For A Very Good Reason
Lucy Paul and Charles Paul, San Francisco, CA 4/14/14
I have a penchant for getting philosophical about some films, and there was much in FOR NO GOOD REASON about which to be so. The subject, Ralph Steadman, made his name and his career producing visceral, sometimes deliberately disturbing, political cartoons, as well as illustrating the work of the original gonzo journalist, Hunter S. Thompson. When I spoke with Charles Paul and Lucy Paul on April 14, 2014, about their documentary, fifteen years in the making, about Steadman, I most wanted Charles, an artist himself, to talk about something in the documentary. Early in his career, Steadman had gone to New York City from his native England in order to take photos of what he found there. Yet the photos weren’t the point. He would make cartoons from them, and the way he rendered them made me ponder the difference between photography and drawing. Charles’ answer is one of the best I’ve even gotten in an interview about the impact and meaning of art on and to culture. It’s the last part of the interview.
Not that the rest of the conversation isn’t also interesting. In it Charles and Lucy describe meeting Steadman for the first time as part of an ongoing project to document a number of contemporary artists, and the incredible gift he handed to Charles, as well as the ingenious method that Charles came up with to capture the creative process of making art, and the challenge of mixing a plethora of visual media, spanning film to digital, into a final film that is true not only to the Steadman’s story and spirit, but to the colors of the drawings themselves. Let’s just say it wasn’t easy.
Fifteen years in the making, this is an intimate portrait, as the cliché goes, of the man perhaps best known as the cartoonist who not only took on the task of illustrating the work of gonzo journalist Hunter S Thompson, but also the man himself as they traveled the world on assignment. The film covers that with aplomb, but also shows us the artist in his studio being as surprised as friend Johnny Depp and as we are by the outcome of his signature ink fling and subsequent reworking of it, remembering his spur to activism, and the striking, disturbing, revolutionary cartoons that he created in order to change the world.
The Pauls are the founders of Itch Films, and this is their first feature film. I can only hope it’s not their last.
Click here to listen to the interview (21:43)FOR NO GOOD REASON — Charles Paul and Lucy Paul.