12 January 2005 | Krustallos
They Don't (Dare) Make 'em Like This Any More
It's difficult to see why people have such a hard time with this movie. Anyone who is interested in European art cinema of the '60's or even the novel since Joyce should have no trouble reading the film on at least some levels. Hopper's method here is to try and get inside the head, to put thought and memory on the screen, not just pictures.
Part of the problem may be the sheer complexity. There are probably enough ideas crammed in here for a dozen movies, and Hopper throws them all at us, often simultaneously. There's a story about American imperialism, there's a story about the artifice of film-making, there's a story about the way audiences view cinema, there's a Christ allegory wrapped up with a general sacrificial victim theme, a story about men and women, sex, money and power, there's Hopper's own story, the story of cinema itself, there's a satire of Hollywood conventions in general and the Western in particular, very notably there's a story about the Peruvian landscape, ravishingly shot by Laszlo Kovacs. There's even the story of Hopper's gofer lost in a society he doesn't understand if you want a simple narrative to hang on to. The film combines all these facets into a structure which can only be described as crystalline.
Devotees of "folding" should find plenty to occupy them here - there's the film about Hopper's character "Kansas", the film Sam Fuller is making, the villagers' "film", "The Last Movie" itself, an on-set home movie and probably several others besides.
Hopper gaily references (and steals from) everyone from Fellini and Godard to John Huston and Nicholas Ray, and of course goes bonkers in Peru well before Werner Herzog got around to it (and appropriates tribal culture in a strikingly similar way).
Definitely not a film to be missed by anyone interested in fractured narratives, postmodernism in film or the beautiful image. Vastly underrated and well worth its Venice prize, this is to "Easy Rider" what "Pulp Fiction" is to "Reservoir Dogs". Hopper as a director has never been better.