Directed by Dennis Hopper, filmed in the country of Peru and released in the director’s home country of America in 1971.
Dennis Hopper has always been one of the most rebellious filmmakers and actors in American cinema, so it’s really no surprise that the film he would make directly after Easy Rider (his directorial debut and an incredibly unconventional film in itself) would be The Last Movie – another unconventional movie but this time he really stretches the structure of your typical Hollywood picture and the meaning of the word “unconventional”.
The movie starts out in Peru and on the set of a western being made by, none other than, Samuel Fuller. Hopper is only seen in the background mostly during the first half an hour of the film as a stunt man. The film being shot is full of violence and death and soon enough the shoot ends in a real death of one of the actors. The film wraps up but Hopper decides to stay in Peru and shack up with a local prostitute. As they begin to settle into their home in the mountains a priest approaches Hopper’s character and tells him that the villagers are re-enacting the scenes from the movie but for real. They’ve no idea that what they saw previously was all faked. Soon enough they’re asking Hopper to re-enact the part of the stunt man who died.
In the style of Easy Rider, Hopper edits rapidly and there are random cuts to things that aren’t really relevant to much but it all makes you feel like you’re right there in Peru with these villagers re-enacting these scenes. Hopper’s performance goes from emotional to drunk within seconds in some scenes and this really is a showcase of both his acting abilities and his directorial abilities. The wide cinematography looks like it’s taken right out of a John Ford movie, but then when the camera closes in and gets closer to the characters it looks like a filmmaker toying with his camera on his first film.
This really is a splendid film and it’s one that challenges the viewer to think, not once, not twice but three times about how a feature film should be presented and for the filmmaker viewers it challenges them to rethink the linear structure in which these films are made. It’s not like Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction in it’s structure but it’s definitely similar to films like those that tell stories in this way and in that respect this film is miles ahead of it’s time.
Hopper’s next film Out Of The Blue, which I have already seen, was – after seeing this – the logical step for Hopper to go and I now am dying to rewatch that because I know I will like it much much more.