Sunday, May 30, 2010

the last movie

"There are moments that I've had some real brilliance, you know. But I think they are moments. And sometimes - in a career - moments are enough. I never felt I played the great part. I never felt that I directed the great movie...

I can't say that it's anybody's fault but my own."

I was sprawled out on the sofa when I caught the tail end of the bulletin. Dennis Hopper finally lost out to the prostate cancer which had been eating away at him for the better part of a decade.

It saddened me a little.

Hopper achieved iconic status in his own right even before I watched him in "Rebel Without a Cause" and "Giant". A boy clearly in awe of Jimmy Dean. His fallow years reminded me of what a fine picture "The Last Movie" was. It might have very nearly destroyed his reputation in Hollywood, it might have financially crippled him, but that one unravelling length of celluloid is pretty much how I will chose to remember him. Permanently distracted and keen to pry loose the skin on things.

Dennis Hopper wore the face of a man awaking from electro convulsive therapy. An epiliptic seizure.

The thousand yard stare of a suburban head who might have just breakfasted on mescaline and tequila before venturing out to collect the mail or mow the lawn.

His sabbatical in Peru was certainly outwardly prompted by his contractual obligation to Universal Pictures, but it reeked of an obsessive impulse to harness the hallucinogenic properties of the ayahuasca vine. Well. The path to enlightenment is twisting and fraught with peril. There is no defining eureka moment or pot of gold to recover where previous expeditions have floundered. Just diminishing perspective and the ritual cycle of birth and decay.

If Dennis Hopper found out otherwise he kept his own counsel.

His role in Francis Coppola's "Apocalypse Now" rehabilitated him commercially.

His role in Coppola's adaptation of S.E. Hinton's "Rumblefish" told of more prosaic truths. I will not dwell on the ensuing drug rehab program or later successes, of which there were many.

Dennis Hopper was an accomplished photographer, painter and sculptor. In many ways he was a child who refused to be cowed by social constraint. He did what he did and lasted longer than most.


Löst Jimmy said...

It is his outstanding role in Apocalypse Now which will forever be my defining memory of DH.

"One through nine, no maybes, no supposes, no fractions. You can't travel in space, you can't go out into space, you know, without, like, you know, uh, with fractions, okay? What are you going to land on – one-quarter, three-eighths? What are you going to do when you go from here to Venus or something? That's dialectic physics."

ib said...

It is a great line, and hinged on more than the superficial observation lesser characters might have employed.

Jesus. I trust that quote didn't just fly off the top of your head, Löst Jimmy ? If so, hats off to the unclouded memory.

Imagine if Hopper had been nailed as presenter on science for the BBC in the 80s. It might have precipitated an explosion in designer drugs more challenging than those Smarties masquerading as MDMA.

ib said...

This quote is considerably more alarming:

"I`ve been a Republican since Reagan. I voted for Bush and his father. I don`t tell a lot of people, because I live in a city where somebody who voted for Bush is really an outcast."

ib said...

Mitigated, thankfully, by this:

"I voted for Bush, father and son, but this time I'll vote for Obama. I was the first person in my family to have been Republican. For most of my life I wasn't on the Left. I pray God, Barack Obama is elected."

@eloh said...

I'll remember him best from "Easy Rider".

Löst Jimmy said...

No I only remember that quote in fragments I had to look up the IMDB for the full run. I'll always remember these ones though "The heads you're looking at the heads, sometimes he goes too far, you know he's the first one to admit it!" And the timeless, "Zap 'em with your sirens, man! Zap 'em with your sirens!"

ib said...


Yeah, Easy Rider was a great road movie; still immensely watchable in spite of the bitter feud it fueled with Fonda.

If "The Last Movie" was Hopper's considered response to flirting with the mainstream - despite all good intentions - Jack Nicholson would make a similar u-turn in Bob Rafelson's "Five Easy Pieces", burying George Hanson once and for all under layer upon layer of blacktop and rust.

Löst Jimmy:

Heads up on the heads. Poor Marlon went too far, indeed; too much ice cream and family woes.

Still. For all the criticism, he lent Kurtz an extra dimension. Or do I just mean dress size ?

Löst Jimmy said...

Looking back it could be said that only Marlon could have played Kurtz, with the hiding in the shadows stuff and decline it may be said he was Kurtz and Kurtz was Brando!

"The Horror, the Horror"

ib said...

The passage of time has been kind to Marlon's part in the journey into darkness. Old ham floats the bloat.

Jenny said...

I really loved him in apocalypse now and Blue velvet and his work with Gorillaz on Demon Days. Unfortunately, he was also a spouse abuser during his drug fueled years. You can tell due to all those marriages.

ib said...

Well. It was no coincidence that he told David Lynch he had to have that part.

"I am Frank."


Anonymous said...

Well, Republican or not, the man had taste! Quod erat demonstrandum?

OK: Heinecken - Fuck dat shit!

anoymus no. 2

ib said...

"That which has to be demonstrated".

Or, more bluntly: "Let he who is without sin cast the first cocktail."
Molotov or otherwise.

"I love the smell of self recrimination in the morning."

Papa Doc Duvall, but close enough.