Saturday, 4 April 2009

Dennis Hopper is The American Dreamer

The American Dreamer, a documentary portrait of Dennis Hopper is one of the great lost films of the early seventies. Made in 1971, as Hopper was basking in the glory of his Cannes winning film Easy Rider, and before the release of his second film The Last Movie (which would turn out to be a colossal bomb), The American Dreamer was filmed mostly around Hopper's ranch in New Mexico and finds the bearded director (who could have strayed from the cover of The Band's second album) baring his soul (and his ass) for the camera. Hopper's musings on art, film making, photography, sex and politics are wonderfully pretentious, including an incredible sequence where Hopper, with the need to feel "self conscious" strips off his clothes and walks down a sleepy LA suburban neighborhood, balls naked. In between bouts of Hopper firing off various hand guns and rifles, and indulging in some softcore grappling with 2 girls in a bathtub, we see a pensive Hopper overseeing the endless editing on The Last Movie, while trying to stave off Universal who are anxious to see what Hopper did in Peru with all their money.

The American Dreamer remains commercially unavailable today; apparently the film has been kept out of circulation by Hopper himself, which is not surprising as the film is hardly a flattering portrait. In one unnerving sequence, he indulges in, some rather Manson-like group sex with a bunch of groupies, (which he calls a "sensitivity encounter"), and at one point, Hopper mentions that he has visited Manson in prison. In a cringe worthy sequence, Hopper declares he is a male lesbian - I'd rather give head to a woman than fuck them...Basically, I think like a lesbian


The American Dreamer was co-written and directed by L.M. Kit Carson who would go on to write Paris Texas and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre Part 2. The soundtrack is composed of some rather lame folk songs, written specially for the film – at one point the track The Screaming Metaphysical Blues goes - Here's to Mr. Hopper who traded in his chopper (?) The film's two best songs, Outlaw Song and the title track are by The Byrd's Gene Clark. The film may not be officially available but can be found through the usual channels, and for Dennis Hopper fans and students of American independent Cinema, it is required viewing.

6 comments:

  1. Another great suggestion, wes! i managed to track down a digital copy. fascinating to watch. dennis hopper will always be the one who got away for me. he was set to die young just like morrison, hendrix - any name of a seventies cultural icon who became legend trhsough an early drug induced death here -. and watching this documentary underlines this feeling even more. maybe a part of him died back then and he settled with what is left of him after the drugs. after COLORS he never emerged again as a filmmaker or did he?

    barryegan

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  2. Hey Barry... yeah, I'm definitely not sure what Hopper done after COLORS - was THE HOT SPOT after COLORS ? I'm not sure... I think his greatest film is OUT OF THE BLUE - that's a masterpiece - see it if you can. I'm still trying to locate a copy of TRACKS, a film Hopper starred in the mid-70's, about a dazed and confused 'Nam vet bringing his buddy home to the US to be buried. Wild movie !

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  3. youre right, HOTSPOT came after COLORS, so did CATCHFIRE(, which became an Alan Smithee movie). But COLORS was the only film he got great critical response for after ..well...EASY RIDER? TRACKS sounds cool. will keepo my eyes open for that one.
    by the way: i dont understand why you get so little comments here. i rally enjoy your reviews and recommendations a lot and check regularly for updates. your choice of films is very eclectic and off the main road. keep it up!
    barryegan

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  4. Thanks for the kind words Barry... You are a hero ! I don't think I get a lot of visitors here sadly and there's a million other blogs out there better than mine so... but hey if you enjoy spending time here, its enough to keep me publishing !

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  5. Well, I'll be your huckleberry, sir! I love Hopper - got to work with him (that's the good news. The bad? It was Super Mario Bros.) and he was a true gentleman and a pro. I will be seeking this doc out - though I'm not that great at the usual channels, sadly.

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  6. Fantastic stuff, what an honor it must have been to meet a living legend. Sadly, this great documentary is hard to find nowadays, but some kindly soul has made it available albeit in rather lo-fi qulaity on youtube

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