A critical, financial, personal and possibly even spiritual catastrophe that with each passing day feels more like a masterpiece, Dennis Hopper's The Last Movie is one of the great lost films of the 1970s. Upon its much-delayed release in 1971, the mind-altering neo-Western nearly ended its director-star's career before seeming to vanish without a trace for decades.
Now restored and back on the big screen where it belongs, The Last Movie benefits from multiple viewings; you catch through lines and details you'd missed earlier, while also developing new mini-fascinations and obsessions. The representational fissures of cinema -- the tension between the real and the imaginary, between imitation and inspiration -- have been woven into its very fabric.
Decamping to the remote Peruvian village Chinchero with a crew, some of his closest pals, and (apparently) a mountain of drugs, Hopper improvised much of The Last Movie. He turned the story -- about a self-destructive stunt coordinator's alienation and ambivalence about his job, his affairs and his life — into a wild reverie on, among other things, alternate planes of existence. Hopper plays Kansas, an American horse wrangler and stuntman who decides to stay behind in rural Peru after the Sam Fuller Western he's working on has wrapped. He shacks up with Maria (Stella Garcia) who used to work at a local brothel. Kansas may imagine that he's saved her, but his work -- the Hollywood shoot that's come to town -- has poisoned this society. To convey this sense of everything being out of whack, the film is shot through with a crazy dream logic that takes Hopper's rapturous vistas and immersive scenes and reshuffles them into a highly symbolic, stream-of-consciousness freak-out.