Brief thoughts on The Last Movie

The Last Movie
by Dennis Hopper

If Easy Rider has endured as the flagship film of the counterculture it's because of its accessibility and its freedom of images and symbols. Everything one needs to know about the times is right there in the open, pinned to Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda's bodies. It has precious little on its mind. The Last Movie, by contrast, had too much on its mind for the comfort of American studios and audiences. It died at the box office and its distributor buried it sending Hopper underground for a lotta years. Long just a legend, The Last Movie the quintessential internet age discovery. Whether as a full VHS rip or in 10 parts on youtube, it's proof that, thanks to a tireless online cinephilia, truth will out. Hopper, in only his third appearance as a leading man after The Glory Stompers and Curtis Harrington's beautiful Night Tide, directs himself as a cowboy consultant on a western being shot in Mexico (it's tempting to think they're making Ulzana's Raid even if that is Sam Fuller behind the camera instead of Robert Aldrich). When the crew packs it in, the locals are left without a center of gravity and turn to Hopper for answers he can't give them. Emulating his hero James Dean, Hopper is a mix of hurt sensitivity and confused desire, a continuation of his stellar work in Night Tide. Behind the camera he's more an orchestrator, the foreman of a too-ambitious construction project, than just a director. The chaos can be overwhelming, but if, like Hopper and sidekick Dean Stockwell, you're willing to pan for gold, you'll fill your pockets. Here is what a first-rate mind immersed in every aspect of filmmaking thinks about when high on every drug imaginable, the most potent of which was success. Here is a portrait of an artist, a community, and an era imploding on itself. The Last Movie inspired Pauline Kael's famed remark about watching an artist slashing his canvas. More specifically, it's watching a filmmaker take his own movie away from himself; the beautiful dream and the harsh reality of Hollywood in one hazy jaunt to Mexico. 

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