The American Dreamer is a 1971 documentary that follows Dennis Hopper as he puts together The Last Movie. Directors L.M. Kit Carson, Lawrence Schiller had total access to Hopper and what they’ve produced is a weird counter-culture documentary that shows a man lost in the realms of excess and privilege. The film captures the perfect moment in Hopper’s career which saw a promising career begin to crumble and while it may not be a faithful document to the man at that particular moment it does illustrate the corrupting nature of ego.
Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider was a monumental success in 1969 and his follow-up was regarded by many to be the second cinematic coming. Hopper was given unprecedented power and a $1 million dollar budget to make The Last Movie, however, in the end was a financial disaster.
The American Dreamer would never be made in this age of micro-managed media profiles. It show every side of Hopper, a man who saw a great affinity between himself and Orson Welles – something which would oddly come to pass when he was disregarded by Hollywood and thrown aside as a filmmaker. Hopper had to claw back his career in the ‘80s and ‘90s in a series of villain roles in big budget movies but he was never been able to re-establish himself as the voice of the lost generation.
Carson and Schiller’s film shows a balance of excess and melancholy and Hopper is presented as someone adrift due to the excess afforded to him. Their film is an experimental piece that’s captivating but oddly distancing due to the unfocused narrative. The main take-away from The American Dreamer is that The Last Movie was doomed for failure due to Dennis Hopper’s unguided ‘vision’. The casual viewer may not get much from this but scholars of American cinema will enjoyed this unfiltered looking of one of Hollywood’s mavericks at the height of his powers.