The Amer­i­can Dreamer

THE AMER­I­CAN DREAMER, doc­u­men­tary, not rated, Jean Cocteau Cin­ema, 2 chiles

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS -

At one point in this ram­bling, em­bar­rass­ing, bor­ing, and some­times riv­et­ingly re­veal­ing be­hind-the-scenes doc­u­men­tary shot mostly around Taos dur­ing the post-pro­duc­tion of his epic bomb The Last Movie, Dennis Hopper says some­thing along the lines of “Be care­ful what you wish for.” The time was 1971, and Hopper had re­cently scored a huge hit with

Easy Rider. Old Hol­ly­wood didn’t know what to make of it, but they un­der­stood box of­fice, and he was given the go-ahead and his bud­get for The Last Movie, his dream Western that crashed his ca­reer just as Heaven’s Gate would do for Michael Cimino’s a decade later (both films have achieved cult sta­tus).

Hopper saw him­self as a lat­ter-day Or­son Welles. “The Last Movie is go­ing to be much bet­ter than Easy Rider,” Hopper pre­dicts. “And if it’s no bet­ter than The Mag­nif­i­cent Am­ber­sons,” he says, re­fer­ring to Welles’ com­mer­cially dis­ap­point­ing fol­low-up to Citizen Kane, “I’ll be sat­is­fied.”

The Amer­i­can Dreamer catches Hopper at his most vul­ner­a­ble, which is to say flushed with suc­cess and rid­ing a rocket of fame, and a man may say and do a lot of fool­ish­ness on such a high. As cap­tured by film­mak­ers Kit Car­son and Lawrence Schiller, Hopper dis­plays a wist­ful yearn­ing to be pro­found, de­liv­er­ing philoso­phies on art, love, sex, vi­o­lence, crim­i­nal­ity, more sex, lone­li­ness, revo­lu­tion, literature (“I don’t be­lieve in read­ing”), film­mak­ing, celebrity, and did I men­tion sex?

“I’m just another chick,” he says. “I’m a les­bian chick.” And he sur­rounds him­self with pretty women, and gets naked with them, and splashes with them in bath­tubs, and smokes a lit­tle dope, and shoots off his guns, and gen­er­ally fan­ta­sizes and lives the male Amer­i­can dream.

The Amer­i­can Dreamer suc­ceeds best as a time capsule of a cer­tain slice of the life a cer­tain slice of Amer­i­can youth went look­ing for at that hazy mo­ment of the early ’70s that we re­mem­ber and en­shrine as the ’60s. Hopper is no smarter and no dum­ber than a lot of other peo­ple were at that time; he’s just more public and more ex­posed. He spouts deep thoughts with no con­cern for how they may sound the morn­ing af­ter, epochally speak­ing, when the film is played for pos­ter­ity (This is its first com­mer­cial re­lease.). His ego does not per­mit him any self-re­straint, which leads to an al­most touch­ing un­guarded hon­esty and shal­low­ness. — Jonathan Richards

Sleazy rider: Dennis Hopper

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