Rum Diary – a sober jag

Sometimes when someone dies he lives forever as undead. The effect of vampirism can not only be found in gothic films, it arises also in many streams of popculture. What I mean is not nostalgia, the gilded remembrance of bygone days, I mean the permanent presence of ghosts of the past just going on forever. One of these ghosts is popliterature; after it`s last convulsions in the nineties and it`s death after the millenium it is still spooking everywhere. In internet journalism this style has been knowing a revival and a lot of films remind us of past heroes. Truman Capote, Allen Ginsberg, Charles Bukowski, Jack Kerouac are getting a biopic or their texts were made into a film. After Terry Gilliams really innovative „Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas“ Bruce Robinsons „Rum Diary“ is the second film version of a book by Hunter S. Thompson. To say it clearly, the film is not good but it opens up an interesting point. Johnny Depp plays a young journalist arriving in Puerto Rico, where he should relaunch a new form of writing in a rundown desk. A bit later the newspaper is getting folded, but Depp`s character with a strong autobiographical echo to Thompson meets a rich corrupt man and his beautyful wife. He is supposed to become a part of the criminal society and make a lot of money. The difference between right and left is more than lucid. How it is typical for the New Journalism also called Gonzo-Journalism, created by Thompson, the actual strand will be forgotten soon, instead it is the jag that does matter. And so we see Depp and his new friends in endless shots drinking rum and taking drugs. We spectators stay dry while they are getting drunk on the screen. It is difficult to stage a high.

At this very moment the film „Irvine Welsh`s Extasy“ – naturally based on a popliterary text – also fails the representation of ecstasy. „Rum diary“ only shows us that what we could imagine ourselves easily. It confirms our simple ideas of crossing frontiers, our clichés of Puerto Rico – and my personal prejudice regarding Johnny Depp. He always plays captian Sparrow even when he has a shore leave. But more than this, one can see how the subversive popliterature is now a stuffy gesture. If one wants to be cool, one has to be like all these cool guys as for instance Ginsberg or Thompson. The reason for their still dominant influence lies in the than provocation. But this has been over for a long time. The subversive is aligned. „Rum Diary“ is a nerving hagiography of the popculture and the good old times, where a man could be a man and a woman had to be a woman. In Germany all the writers of the second popliterature era now are working for serious newspapers still making their stale jokes. But it is only a gesture – maybe it was never more. The art historian Aby Warburg spoke about pathos formula and described how for example pagan gestures emerged in the art of Renaissance. One can not get rid of them, as just as we can not get rid of the representatives of popliterature and their habitus – even dating back to more then half a century. Vampires can get very old.

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