The American Dreamer, the fascinating Dennis Hopper-focussed documentary from 1971, has largely remained unseen since its brief initial release all those decades ago. Now, for the first time ever, L.M. Kit Carson and Lawrence Schiller’s film has a UK cinema release, albeit a limited one.
Picking up with a Hopper fresh from the success of helming the iconic Easy Rider, this documentary looks at this legendary figure of American cinema as he puts together his ultimately-bashed The Last Movie. But it’s not The Last Movie that’s the majority of the focus here, for the tale is really just an examination of Dennis Hopper the man, caught up in a hazy 1970s landscape of sex, drugs, overindulgence and creative fulfillment. Oh, and beards. Lots and lots of beards.
Many saw the success of Easy Rider as being the pivotal moment that changed Hollywood, ushering in a new era for an industry that had been deemed long-stagnant by many. Here we see Hopper full of hope, optimism, creativity and love. Forget some of the legendary stories of misdemeanors and bad behaviour that involved Dennis Hopper, this is a look at Hopper at his most insightful, reflective and at a time when the game was changing for him and for the movie industry as a whole. Set mainly at his isolated home-cum-studio, The American Dreamer sees the putting together of The Last Movie as its main course, but it’s the side dish of stoned love-ins that’s equally as fascinating. Given that the end result of Hopper’s work here was the universally-panned The Last Movie, it’s hugely interesting to explore and serve as a voyeur as we see the excesses and extravagances that can’t have failed to have had some form of influence on the end result of Hopper’s 1971 Easy Rider follow-up.
Throughout his life and career, Dennis Hopper was a polarizing figure, one of Hollywood’s most notoriously troubled souls and original bad boys, but The American Dreamer is a wonderful look at a complex figure dealing with his own place in an ever-changing world. It may have been rarely seen since its initial release, but The American Dreamer is a film that its most definitely worth searching out during this limited cinematic re-release. Framed by a stunning, emotive, mood-encapsulating soundtrack, this is a feature that offers a peak behind the curtain of one of the most vital periods in cinema, at the same time looking at one of the key figures of this changing of the guard.
An exclusive on-demand release with MUBI on February 12th.
THE AMERICAN DREAMER / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: L.M. KIT CARSON, LAWRENCE SCHILLER / SCREENPLAY: N/A / STARRING: DENNIS HOPPER / RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 5TH
Expected Rating:7 out of 10