Like Micheal Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, critics have attacked and mocked the excessive ways of Dennis Hopper’s The Last Movie. Rather than focus on the film – the imagery, characterizations and experimental structure – they honed in on the sensational stories of orgies and cocaine consumption because that’s what sells. The truth is, while Hopper’s film may be flawed, it is seminal – directionless, faded and disturbing. Under the tutelage of Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky, Hopper constructed an experimental narrative – including a title card flashing missing scene as if we are watching a rush – continually reminding the viewer of what this is – just a film.While it’s not earth-shattering genius, neither was Easy Rider nor even Midnight Cowboy or Apocalypse Now for that matter, but it’s genuine and a far cry from the processed images of today, all seemingly rendered from a rendering of a rendering. Personal and real, The Last Movie itself will be rendered soon enough. “Love is everywhere.”
Every story needs its ticking bomb: Will Luke destroy the Death Star? Will Jack really kill Ralph? Will Gatsby run off with Daisy? Will Chigurgh catch Llewelyn?* We are compelled to keep reading, to find out what happens in the end.
*Yes, no, no and no.
While Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue is the Warmest Color received controversial press for its stark portrayal of sexuality, the film’s only real problem is in its self-indulgence. Choked with scenes of endless dancing, staring into space and, yes, sex, the film needs an editor; at over an hour too long, the film’s essential moments and images are lost in the ego of the author. Of course Kechiche is not alone in his onanism; many an excellent director has fallen victim to believing that everything shot is sacred, including Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now Redux, Lars von Trier’s Nymphomanic, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and Michael Cimino’s infamous Heaven’s Gate. This is to say nothing of the glut of Hollywood monstrosities such as Titanic, The Lord of the Rings and all of the superheroes piled atop each other.It’s the simpler things that ring true, such as a director listening to his inner voice: “Cut!”
What is a critic’s opinion worth? How much money in real dollars? What is a star out of five? What is it per vitriolic word?I understand that these idle gadabouts don’t actually create anything and that they are bitter and dissatisfied because they just, well, criticize, but there’s a number in there somewhere. The recent ballyhoo about Michael Cimino’s work, Heaven’s Gate, has given me pause. While the film is much like his masterwork The Deer Hunter in its majestic landscapes, focus on hypnotic ceremony, retributive violence, characters lost in a foreign land, love triangles and touching score, Heaven’s Gate was derided and Cimino vilified.
The film has been resurrected and re-screened as of late, and now has many on its side including Manohla Dargis in The New York Times, celebrating the “complex choreography and cinematography (as) seductive, at times stunning”, while others stick to the poo-poo trail like Joshua Rothkopf (Time Out New York) calling it, oddly, an “inert disaster”. The truth is that it doesn’t matter so much what Joshua and Co. say now. It’s 30 years ago that mattered. I would love to have seen Heaven’s Gate in its initial release in 1980, but I didn’t because the film only lasted a week…due to devastating critical opinion.
I have come to realize that this is not only a frustrating fact, but a crime. Having seen the film just now in the theater, I know that, like The Deer Hunter, it would have been a great boon to my developing psyche. And so back to my original question: What is a critic’s opinion worth? There’s a dollar figure in there somewhere. Whatever it is, I want my collateral damage.