Sunday, December 18, 2011

THE LAST MOVIE (1971) - Dennis Hopper

"Kansas"

I stayed away from Hopper's follow-up to Easy Rider for many years and many reasons. For one, I could never find anything other than badly worn pan-and-scan VHS copies of the film. I missed out every time it played at the revival houses in NY and L.A. Also, I'd been told by several trusted acquaintances not to bother. Reading Peter Biskind's account of the troubled production in Easy Riders, Raging Bulls would suffice. Finally, knowing that the film was shot in Peru and that Hopper was riding a post-Rider high of more than one variety, I always suspected the film was just an elaborate, paid excuse for Hopper to score some really good cocaine.

After watching The Last Movie earlier this week on a semi-decent VHS-to-YouTube transfer, my suspicion remains the same-- South American production as front for massive drug score. That said, Hopper's follow-up to Easy Rider isn't the total bomb I had feared. It's got some really good ideas, most of which are completely muddled by the desperately elliptical editing masquerading as '70s art film deconstruction. I'm talking about the random title cards, the "Scene Missing" slates inserted randomly. I get it, Dennis...we're watching a film within a film. You don't have to hit us over the head with post-Godard technique. The fact that this film was shot in the '70s, takes place on a film set and has director Sam Fuller playing the director in the film...I think that's more than enough.

According to Wikipedia, Alejandro Jodorowsky is responsible for influencing Hopper to re-edit a reportedly bad but much more linear cut into the truncated form The Last Movie takes today. It might have been a good idea if Hopper had shot a Jodorowsky film. But Hopper shot a Hopper film. It's more literal, less planned, much more American. Unfortunately, trying to turn it into something French once his production high bottomed out produced a middling result.

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