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  American Dreamer, The Time To Wake Up
Year: 1971
Director: L.M. Kit Carson, Lawrence Schiller
Stars: Dennis Hopper, various
Genre: DocumentaryBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: During the period where Dennis Hopper had completed shooting on his film The Last Movie but had not finished the editing of it, and the executives at Universal were starting to get uneasy about whether the project would ever be released with a volatile character such as him in charge of it, a documentary was made, following Hopper around as he busied himself with his work. Mostly what he seemed to be busying himself with was play, according to this anyway, as one of the directors, L.M. Kit Carson, instructed him to act natural in front of his camera, and Hopper regaled him with his philosophies...

The very early seventies represented something of a hippy hangover for major Hollywood studios, so they produced work that tried to cash in on that popular youth culture which had been so influential, but its effect on artistry in the movie business had been a lot less certain. By 1971, the world was turning to the "Me Generation", and the eruption of the counterculture into the mainstream had turned into something of a damp squib, the worry being that this new breed of filmmakers was more likely to fritter away their budgets getting stoned than they were to actually create a work that could bring in the punters.

What kind of director or star would get up to that kind of behaviour? Well, Mr Hopper was a prime candidate, and The Last Movie pretty much ruined his chances in the movie business for around a decade, although watching this and his apparent lack of activity or drive you do wonder if he hadn't been his own worst enemy during this part of his life. The documentary captures him rambling at some length on whatever subject catches his imagination, or is prompted by Carson (usually offscreen), but as far as the inner workings of his mind went, unenlightening was the most appropriate way to describe it.

There is no real narrative to this, not even the completion of the film Hopper was supposed to be making, so what you get is largely a collection of vignettes, at times assembled in trendy editing styles where a few moments of a different scene will flash up, or we'll get a freeze frame while Hopper continues on another topic. It doesn't stop the whole project from feeling massively self-indulgent, but Hopper comes across as being the ideal man for that kind of thing, as judging by this his favourite subject was himself as he tells us that he has no use for reading (an opinion we see later he has got from a poster quoting Andy Warhol on his wall), or that he is in fact a "lesbian chick", which he tells to a bunch of nubile young women he has gathered for "group therapy".

The location for this is mostly Hopper's house, where we get to see him bathe, edit, and smoke marijuana, although not as much as you might expect after watching his behaviour in this. He also likes to shoot, so goes out to the desert outside with handguns and assault rifles for a spell of target practice, and folky music plays as an observation to the situation, building up what is essentially farting about to proportions more fitting for groundbreaking political revolutionaries. No such luck here, unless you count Hopper stripping off in a suburban street and walking down the road starkers is a revolutionary act, or opining on the subject of group sex, with images of him in a bath with two ladies to illustrate, floats your political boat. There are a few laughs to be had, some of them intentional, but in the main it will have you marvelling that Hopper managed to get anything done at all in those days.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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