“One of the craziest (and druggiest) movies ever made.”
Premiering at the 1971 Venice Film Festival, Dennis Hopper’s Peruvian Western pushed the envelope of New American Cinema.
As a working actor from a young age, Hopper was entrenched in, yet railed against the Hollywood illusion machine. Inspired to play this out on screen, he worked with Rebel Without A Cause screenwriter Stewart Stern and assembled a motley crew of Hollywood royalty including Samuel Fuller, Kris Kristofferson and Peter Fonda to make an intoxicating film within a film.
Hopper stars as Kansas, a dashing Hollywood stunt wrangler working on a doomed Western. When the shoot wraps he stays behind, takes up with a local and before long is embroiled in another film; directed by the local Peruvians where the equipment is fake but the movie stunts and violence are real.
The huge box office success of Hopper’s directorial debut Easy Rider offered the actor-turned director an enormous freedom. Assuming they had another counter-culture box office hit on their hands, Universal Studios reportedly gave Hopper close to a million dollars and final-cut on The Last Movie.
What transpired however was a wildly psychedelic narrative infused with jump cuts, double takes, dreamscapes and disjointed realities. On release it was met with derision from American critics and audiences alike. Universal eventually shelved the film and effectively sent Hopper’s directing career into the wilderness for some time.
In the intervening years The Last Movie has been rediscovered by fans and critics alike. As Drew Todd notes in the catalogue essay for the 2018 restoration premiere at the IL Cinema Ritrovato “The Last Movie is a pitch-perfect reflection of the early 1970’s American film, equal parts self-discovery, reinvention, and hallucination.”
Don’t miss this stunning digital restoration back on the big screen.
Our final screening on Thursday 23 May will be introduced by The Age's Jake Wilson.