Eight years before Francis Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, Dennis Hopper got lost in a celluloid jungle born from his own messianic, movie-mad imagination. The result was The Last Movie (1971), in which Hopper’s transient cowboy (known only as “Kansas”) literally rides on to the set of a Sam Fuller western shooting in Peru, gets hired as a stuntman, falls in love with a local, finds himself a pawn in a fellow soldier-of-fortune’s gold-prospecting scheme, and eventually lands back in screenland — this time as the sacrificial star of the Peruvian villagers’ own opera prima, “filmed” with a scrap-metal movie camera and a preference for real blood over fake. Assembled by Hopper from some 40 hours of dailies during a year in the editing room, the movie is nothing if not audacious — so much so that you may find yourself craving convention. Chronology and continuity are strictly for sissies here: The opening title doesn’t appear until 25 minutes in, around the time Kris Kristofferson turns up (for no apparent reason) singing “Me and Bobby McGee.” The themes are like, heavy, man (religion as myth, moviemaking as religion, the soullessness of Hollywood, the exploitation of everybody by everybody else); the movie itself almost impervious to criticism. It’s at once a masterpiece and a folly, profound and inane, a resurrection and a death-dream. The Last Movie indeed: When a final title card announces “End!,” it’s impossible to determine whether it’s a declaration or an imperative. (Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre; Fri., Apr. 4, 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. www.silentmovietheatre.com)
Armed and dangerous: Hopper aims high for The Last Movie.