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American Dreamer, The
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by The Ultimate Dancing Machine

"Why Dennis Hopper's career went to pieces, Exhibit A"
2 stars

There was a brief time circa 1970 where Dennis Hopper was The Man. With overall box office receipts at a historic low, Hopper was one of the few guys around who seemed to have figured out the game; his EASY RIDER (1969; director, co-writer, star) was a massive hit, and he was effectively given the keys to Hollywood. Hopper utilized his new-found star-power to get his dream project made, THE LAST MOVIE (1971), a truly flipped-out experimental western that, alas, turned out to be a bomb of nuclear proportions. But just before his career went to hell, he appeared in this unintentionally revealing behind-the-scenes documentary, filmed during post-production for THE LAST MOVIE, which shows that the emperor had no clothes and quite possibly never did.

For eighty minutes, a camera crew follows Mr. Hopper around his home as he rolls joints, frolics with groupies, plays with his guns, shows off his photography portfolio, wanders around the neighborhood buck naked for no discernable reason, and--above all else--pontificates tediously on anything that comes to mind. Hopper comes off as a harmlessly self-absorbed ass, the sort of fellow who can without a trace of irony utter words like, "It's very difficult at times to, if you believe in evolution, not to believe in revolution." But it's hard to say if it's altogether Hopper's fault that he sounds like a drugged-out gasbag, or the fault of a film crew that hangs on the Great Man's every word like he's Carlos Castaneda. We're treated to too many shots of lovely rural scenery as Hopper rambles on and on in voice-over.

There's little here to indicate that Hopper possesses a terribly interesting mind. We hear a lot about what he likes (group sex, cunnilingus) and dislikes (reading books), but he rarely sounds any more intelligent or enlightened than your Uncle Marty, the one who's been living in his mother's basement since that LSD incident back in the '60s. (The film sometimes gets so vapid--e.g., Hopper making stupid jokes about his daschunds humping each other--that it's chilling to comtemplate all the material that must have been left out of the final cut.) The biggest problem is the paucity of insight into the creative process, which one would think was the whole point of following this guy around with a camera as he tinkered with his pet project. Not that the filmmakers don't try to pump some pertinent quotes out of Hopper; at one point in the editing suite they ask him what he finds most difficult about the post-production process, and he curtly answers, "Sitting here." So much for film theory.

What you're left with is an embarrassingly star-struck vanity project--Dennis Hopper flexing his ego for the whole world to see, cheerfully unaware that his career is about to crash into an iceberg.

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originally posted: 11/29/06 07:45:53
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User Comments

9/29/15 Porfle Popnecker Very entertaining pseudo documentary about Dennis Hopper's ego circa 1970. 4 stars
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  01-Apr-1971 (NR)



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