Thursday, August 12, 2010

70's Bonanza: The Last Movie

With "Easy Rider" in 1968, actor and director Dennis Hopper seemingly visualized the entire spirit of the counter culture. With his second film, "The Last Movie" in 1971, he barely wanted to leave the spirit behind. This is a common theme for a majority of the movies released in the early 70's. The swinging ideas of free love and 1960's hippie culture were still invested in every corner of life, and "The Last Movie" feels like an extended holdover from the period. But there's also a sense of progressiveness behind the film.... full of disconcerting jump cuts, tilted angles and stretches that feel like the film is rambling just for rambling's sake. Or maybe I'm reading way too much into Hopper's desire to create a Jodorwosky film. Regardless, while I can't classify "The Last Movie" as a great one, it is an interesting meta-movie that deserves to be seen on a wider scale, especially with the recent passing of Hopper.

Starring as Kansas, a Hollywood stuntman in the midst of a tumultuous shoot in Peru (for director Sam fuller, no less), "The Last Movie" begins with a barrage of western movie tropes, slowly pulling away to a distance to reveal the filmmaking throng behind the movie. The shoot wraps, but Kansas decides to stay behind with his Peruvian girlfriend (Stella Garcia) and becomes embroiled with the natives after they fail to differentiate the difference between movie artificiality and real life. Hopper hangs out in the local dives with his friends, meets up with an eclectic crew of rich Americans (whose purpose or reasons are unclear), goes to orgies with them and fights with the local priest over the villagers disdain for religion and acceptance of making movies with wooden cameras and boom mikes. Through all of this, its hard not to see Hopper and his acting friends boozing their way through most every scene, which adds an even more maddening aspect to the film's numerous plot digressions. There is a hunt for gold in the mountains. There are allusions to American politics and money overtaking the 'simple' way of Peruvian life in the way Kansas' prostitute girlfriend becomes obsessed with owning a fur coat. There are so many ideas bursting at the seams, its chaotic intentions are evident in the way the film's title card is sprayed across the screen nearly 25 minutes in, as if Hopper remembered it later. Add to that several "scene missing" title cards and one gets the idea that "The Last Movie" had every intention of throwing the rule book out the window, creating an atmosphere of experimentation and sophomore hi-jinks that almost becomes endearing. In 1971, one could get away with that. But really, any film that inserts a random moment of Kris Kristofferson sitting on a rock and singing "Me and Bobby McGee" probably doesn't care much for cohesiveness. It's still cool as hell, though.

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