Synopsis: A film crew shoots a western in a Peruvian village nestled in the Andes. Once the film is finished, all the Americans leave, except for Kansas, one of the stuntmen, who wants to take a step back from Hollywood and settle in the area with Maria, a former prostitute. Things degenerate when the inhabitants decide to shoot their own film: cameras, poles and projectors are fake, but the violence they stage is very real. Kansas will find itself hero in spite of himself of this “fiction”…
Remained unreleased in France for more than fifteen years until its release in 1988, The Last Movie, shunned by the public, experienced a real commercial failure. The distributor Carlotta now offers to rediscover this rare, unloved work with a premonitory title in a restored 4K copy. Second feature film by American Dennis Hopper (Easy Rider, colors, Too good a target) shot in 1971 for Universal, The Last Movie is a virtuoso work on lost innocence, a film-trip on the process of creation and a violent diatribe against the Hollywood system. Indeed, Stewart Stern’s screenplay (The Fury of Living) opens with the arrival of an American film company to shoot the story of Billy the Kid in a village in Peru. One of the Indians, particularly impressed by the director Samuel Fuller (The Drug Port, Shock Corridor), resumes his role after the team leaves. The whole village then participates in this passionate but dangerous game. Are they filming “the last western”? Dennis Hopper, who takes up here themes already present in his previous production Easy Rider (like the idea of paradise lost and the corruption brought about by a decadent North America), thus invites us to dream of reality while experiencing and reproducing fiction. Through this mimetic gesture, the villagers enter into a spiral of violence that unfolds in a crescendo.
“Cursed” film in the atypical career of the filmmaker, The Last Movie severely scratches New Hollywood with freedom, confusion, and the post-68 hangover. Its very experimental and random character, produced by a rough, exploded, even psychedelic editing, by the primacy of the image in Hopper’s work and by the constant mise en abyme of the staging, classifies it among the films- UFO on the world of cinema. Film set and mountainous landscapes occupy the shot and punctuate the whole (nostalgic musical interludes, sequence shot accentuating the immersion specific to filming, etc.) in a game of abrupt alternation. Despite the expression of an original cinematographic language, The Last Movie remains however and deliberately imperfect, since it seeks above all the effect of chaos, disorder, and transcends the theme of the journey strewn with pitfalls. However, there is a meticulous work on the depth of field and the light that defines the undeniable aesthetic quality of László Kovács’ photography.
Dennis Hopper, who himself plays Kansas, the cowboy/hero, magnifies the body of the beautiful Maria, played by Stella Garcia, and also makes nature an intermediate protagonist, especially in a sex scene where the fall of ate plays a metaphorical role, commenting on the reflection on life and happiness. Julie Adams (The New Aurora, The Deserter of Fort Alamo, Revolt in Mexico), meanwhile, plays a Mrs. Anderson deliciously in search of perversions, confirming that Hopper’s cinema, more sensory than narrative, is also that of desire, of seduction and in which the woman is a temptress. Despite the slow exposition and progression of the plot as well as the ill-defined characters —the situation only clarified late before giving way to the improbable expedition from Kansas to the Andes in search of a gold mine— , Hopper delivers a pastiche and marginal western with a somewhat arid form.
Finally, the actor/director benefits from the outcome of The Last Movie, finely constructed in apotheosis, to self-destruct and repeatedly stage his death, in a succession of brief shots reminding us that the whole film is only the celebration of an end and that of New Hollywood. Whether The Last Movie won first prize at the Venice Film Festival in 1971, yet it broke the career of the filmmaker. Now available in its magnificent 4K restoration, this legendary 1970s production nevertheless remains a true UFO in the American cinematographic landscape.
- THE LAST MOVIE
- Theatrical release: July 18, 2018
- 4K restored version
- Director: Dennis Hopper
- With: Dennis Hopper, Stella Garcia, Julie Adams, Kris Kristofferson, Don Gordon, Henry Jaglom, Thomas Milian…
- Screenplay: Dennis Hopper, Stewart Stern
- Producers: Paul Lewis, Bob Rafelson, Michael Gruskoff
- Photography: Laszlo Kovacs
- Editing: David Berlatsky, Antranig Mahakian, Dennis Hopper
- Set design: Peter Cornberg
- Costumes: Jerry Alpert
- Music: Kris Kristofferson, Severn Darden, Chabuca Granda, John Buck Wilkin
- Distribution : Charlotte Films
- Duration: 1h48
- Initial release: September 21, 1971 (US) – November 30, 1988 (France)