Caught by the River

For No Good Reason

20th October 2012

by Ceri Levy.

Brand new documentary, For No Good Reason, is the long overdue celebration of Ralph Steadman, the artist and his work. The film’s anarchic energy matches and mirrors the images and philosophies that are presented to us and is a rollicking ride through a career that has so far spawned many a memorable image that are etched upon so many of our retinas. The crazed drawings of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the flowing line of Alice in Wonderland, the images of Leonardo, his view of America, Ali vs. Foreman in Zaire, the America’s Cup, the Kentucky Derby… Stories mapped out by one of our foremost social commentators. It left me wanting to go home and delve into a Steadman work immediately. And for the first time discoverer of Ralph’s art it will do what every great doco should do, it makes one want to learn more about the subject.

Husband and wife team of Charlie Paul, director, and Lucy Paul, producer, have created this film over the last fifteen years of their lives. A labour of love is a term often heard in documentary circles, as the world of movie finance often shuns docos and it is up to filmmakers to find a way to bring their vision into the light. And this exploration of Ralph’s world is most definitely a joyous labour of love. Charlie and editor, Joby Gee, have done a remarkable job knitting and weaving this story from countless hours of footage and it is one that is well told.

A visit into the land of Steadmania by Johnny Depp forms the spine of the movie and as Ralph discusses his work with him in his studio, we stop off at various key moments of his working life along the way. There are reportage photos taken by Ralph of street bums on his first visit to New York in the 60’s; grainy footage shot by Ralph of time spent with Hunter S. Thompson, as they talk, hang out and spend time disagreeing with each other, which brings us closer to their strange relationship; images of Ralph’s drawings flood into view and Charlie’s gentle animation brings movement to classic static images and makes me wonder what if… what if they all could move.

An eclectic mix of music backs up the visuals and what I particularly like is the art being accompanied by music that isn’t tied to the era of the art’s creation. 60’s and 70’s artwork is accompanied by a host of artists that include Slash, Ed Harcourt, Aloe Blacc and James Blake. It is a well-selected and well-fitted soundscape.

I like seeing documentaries playing in cinemas and For No Good Reason looks stunning up on the screen. I believe we should have “social filming” as we have social housing, whereby multiplexes devote one screen for alternative movies and docos. Call me a dreamer, but more people deserve the chance to go to the movies and experience watching documentaries with an audience. A cinema creates an atmosphere that uniquely unifies people. At the end of the screening of For No Good Reason I could feel the warmth emanating from the audience. We had shared and experienced a beautiful film and for a moment as we headed out into the night air we were united, albeit briefly, for a very good reason… Ralph Steadman’s wonderful imagination, stylishly represented by Charlie Paul.

For No Good Reason opens the London International Animation Festival at The Barbican. Tickets available. October 25th.

Caught by the River is proud to be hosting the launch of Ralph Steadman and Ceri Levy’s new book, Extinct Boids, at Rough Trade East, London, on Thursday, 1st November. More information on that event can be found here.