Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 302: Tue Oct 29

The Last Movie (Hopper, 1971): ICA Cinema, 6.30pm

This rarely seen Dennis Hopper movie is part of the year-long 70x70 season. London writer, filmmaker and 'psychogeographer' Iain Sinclair celebrates his 70th birthday year, with the showing of 70 films, handpicked for their association with his work and shown in venues all over London. Here is a full list of the excellent programme.

Here are some of Sinclair's musings on this unique movie:
'I like endgames. And final commissions. And films that make no sense, shot long after there is any space for them in the world. Hopper’s The Last Movie – which I’ve never seen, or felt the need to chase down – is in sympathy with Asylum. With elements of Herzog. With the Wurlitzer version of Peckinpah. With Budd Boetticher’s terminal charity-shop DVD, A Time for Dying. (A money-laundering exercise for Audie Murphy, who was in hock to the Mafia.)

A cast that includes Sam Fuller, Kris Kristofferson, Peter Fonda and Dean Stockwell is opening too many of heaven’s gates. ‘Persistently sabotages its own resolution.’ Great. That period of Hollywood (money) was about finding ways of subverting the possible. From the descriptions I’ve read – indistinguishable from the synopsis of a Wurlitzer novel – The Last Movie is the finish of American Smoke I wish I’d been capable of writing.

'The narrative extracted from all those bad journeys made Chile seem like the place to which I should aspire, but never achieve. No skies as pure as the dome above the Atacama Desert. Where the dialogue between origin and extinction is manufactured by monkish, rumpled men, and women with the courage to sift the gritty sand for years, hoping for fragments of bones from the disappeared. A foot in a ruined boot becomes a venerated relic. At this distance from the centres of wealth generation, capitals of greed, the outlines of the story are smoothed and given force.'

Chicago Reader review:
The least that can be said for Dennis Hopper's 1971 drama is that no other studio-released film of the period is quite so formally audacious. After Easy Rider, Hopper was given carte blanche by Universal Pictures to make this disjointed epic in Peru; although it was given a special prize at the Venice film festival, the film was withdrawn from circulation in the U.S. after a couple of weeks and has rarely been screened since. After working in a western directed by Samuel Fuller (playing himself), during which one of the lead actors (Dean Stockwell) has been killed, an American stunt man (Hopper) remains behind with a Peruvian woman. He is eventually drafted into an imaginary movie being made by the Indian villagers and is also enlisted in a scheme to find gold in the mountains. The curious thing about this freewheeling allegory is that it is simultaneously about many things (the fakery of moviemaking, mutual exploitation, ugly Americans in the third world, Hopper as Jesus) and nothing at all.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the opening of The Last Movie.

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