The American Dreamer (1971)
The American Dreamer, a documentary portrait of Dennis Hopper is one of the great lost films of the early seventies. Made in 1971, as Hopper was basking in the glory of his Cannes winning film Easy Rider, and before the release of his second film The Last Movie (which would turn out to be a colossal bomb), The American Dreamer was filmed mostly around Hopper’s ranch in New Mexico and finds the bearded director (who could have strayed from the cover of The Band’s second album) baring his soul (and his ass) for the camera. Hopper’s musings on art, film making, photography, sex and politics are wonderfully pretentious, including an incredible sequence where Hopper, with the need to feel “self conscious” strips off his clothes and walks down a sleepy LA suburban neighbourhood, balls naked. In between bouts of Hopper firing off various hand guns and rifles, and indulging in some softcore grappling with 2 girls in a bathtub, we see a pensive Hopper overseeing the endless editing on The Last Movie, while trying to stave off Universal who are anxious to see what Hopper did in Peru with all their money.
The American Dreamer remains commercially unavailable today; apparently the film has been kept out of circulation by Hopper himself, which is not surprising as the film is hardly a flattering portrait. In one unnerving sequence, he indulges in, some rather Manson-like group sex with a bunch of groupies, (which he calls a “sensitivity encounter”), and at one point, Hopper mentions that he has visited Manson in prison. In a cringe worthy sequence, Hopper declares he is a male lesbian - I’d rather give head to a woman than fuck them…Basically, I think like a lesbian.
The American Dreamer was co-written and directed by L.M. Kit Carson who would go on to write Paris Texas and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre Part 2. The soundtrack is composed of awful folk songs, written for the film – at one point the track The Screaming Metaphysical Blues goes - Here’s to Mr. Hopper who traded in his chopper (?) with the two best songs, Outlaw Song and the title track are by The Byrd’s Gene Clark. The film may not be officially available but can be found through the usual channels, and for Dennis Hopper fans and students of American independent Cinema, it is required viewing.