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THE AMERICAN DREAMER (Etiquette Pictures; 1971).

Watching this twisted Dennis Hopper documentary on a double bill with THE LAST MOVIE at Manhattan's Film Forum was pure bliss. The perfect acidhead double bill. And after cringing through his work in sewage like WATERWORLD, this helped to remind me why I used to think he was one of the coolest filmmakers on the planet. Sure, his recent career choices (and sobriety) might be lucrative, but it's certainly left the cinema world short one half-baked artist. Not many public figures would allow themselves to be presented this way for posterity. So I've got to give Hopper credit for having the guts to greenlight this freeform documentary, which follows him to his Taos, New Mexico pad, soon after returning from his lengthy, nasal-membrane-rotting LAST MOVIE shoot in Peru. Filmmakers L.M. Kit Carson (who went onto script PARIS, TEXAS and TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE PART 2) and Lawrence Schiller (who co-wrote O.J.'s book, "I Want to Tell You") knock on Hopper's front door, Dennis answers it in only a bath towel, and they simply let the guy ramble, as the camera rolls. Bearded and bleary-eyed, he babbles about his lonely, unhappy childhood; fires off semi-automatic weapons; shares a bathtub with three naked young ladies; and lets loose with some terrifically pretentious insights. The Wit and Wisdom of Dennis Hopper includes such quotables as "I don't believe in reading. By using your eyes and ears you'll find everything there is." Or how about "I'd rather give head to a woman than fuck them...Basically, I think like a lesbian." We also get to watch him strip down in the middle of a suburban street and stroll about, butt naked. Ahh, the man's a fuckin' genius... No surprise, Hopper looks very perplexed while piecing together his footage for THE LAST MOVIE, explaining that editing a movie is like "having a child and cutting its arms off -- putting its eyes out." Meanwhile, he's hitting on any pretty young woman within camera range, and suckering a bevy of groupies into a self-declared "sensitivity encounter", with all of them crammed onto his bed and groping Hopper's bare ass. All the while, he puts out these Manson-esque vibes; except instead of killing people, all Dennis did was kill off his own braincells. In a creepy admission, he even boasts of visiting Manson in jail. There's also a terrible, folksy-ballad soundtrack which captures the era at its most irritating -- including lame, Greek Chorus-type tunes about Dennis (complete with rhymes like "Here's to Mr. Hopper / Who traded in his chopper."). Far from your orthodox celebrity profile, Hopper opens wide for the camera and proudly lets loose with a juicy one. I just wonder what he thinks of this pic nowadays.

© 1997 by Steven Puchalski.