17 May, 1936, Dodge City, Kansas
29 May 2010, Venice, Los Angeles

On October 8 1963, a young actor named Dennis Hopper attended the first retrospective at the Pasadena Art Museum in California for the French artist Marcel Duchamp. Having found himself at the reception party held at The Hotel Green, Hopper learned that Duchamp was also in attendance, signing any object or pieces of art for anyone who asked him to do so. Recalling that the Hotel Green’s entrance sign reminded him of a Duchamp artwork called Tu m’ (1918), Hopper (along with his then-wife Brooke Hayward and friend Walter Hopps) stole the entrance sign for Duchamp to autograph, and the artist gladly did so. In 2005, Hopper reflected on this crucial moment in his life by stating that at the time, his “assumption about the status of American art was that the artist of the future would no longer paint but ‘point his finger’ and say ‘it’s art’ and it would be art”.1 The significance of Hopper’s assumption is that prior to becoming a filmmaker, he had the ability to see beyond and into the possibility of not only what the hotel sign was but what it could be; particularly as the transfiguration into an art object was not performed by the artist Duchamp, but by an encounter between the object and viewer (that is, Hopper).2

Dennis Hopper

Marcel Duchamp’s Tu m’ (1918).

Dennis Hopper

Dennis Hopper’s Hotel Green (Entrance), (1963)

The Tourist

I would like to use Hopper’s encounter with Duchamp as a key to unlock the (greatly undermined) artistic efforts of Hopper’s cinema. The metamorphosis of the Hotel Green Sign reveals a specific two-step process of how Hopper creates art, that I will use as a framework to discuss his filmography. Firstly, for Hopper to recognise that the Hotel Green Sign reminded him of a previous Duchamp work, the young actor needed to possess a familiarity with the developments of art history in order to make a connection between the two. Secondly, with his knowledge of art history, Hopper possessed enough information to recognise when an object was worthy of being labeled as ‘new art’. This in itself is a radical mentality, as it displays how Hopper simultaneously assumed the role of an artist, art-maker and curator in a single moment. Above all art mediums and practices he encountered in his life, still photography remained Hopper’s greatest obsession until his death. The subjects, places and people Hopper made films about can often be traced back to a photographic study he completed prior to directing a film. In 1994, Dennis Hopper reminisced about his work in photography stating, “From 1961 onwards I carried my camera everywhere. All my friends teased me about being a tourist.”3 By being labeled a ‘tourist’, Hopper was recognised as a filmmaker that did not exist as a separate, exiled celebrity voice that projected an imagined version of the trials and tribulations of the public on screen. Instead, the subjects Hopper filmed throughout this career were chosen by the filmmaker for the purpose of communicating the unheard voices of the American public (with all its confused and raging social and political developments) back to the Hollywood elite so that it could be seen, in a Duchampian sense, as high art.

Early Life

Dennis Lee Hopper was born on May 17, 1936, the first child to Jay and Marjorie Hopper in Dodge City, Kansas. Hopper grew up on his grandparent’s isolated farm where he spent hours watching the Kansas horizon and passing railway trains, constantly framing and recording the movement of nature in his mind without possessing a documentation tool like a film camera. As Hopper has stated, his early life was traumatic due to the emotional abuse he received from his mother. The emotional divide between Dennis and his mother led to Hopper’s decision to move from Kansas to San Diego in 1949. Almost immediately after moving and against the family’s wishes, Hopper began a new life dedicated to the performing arts and enrolled in acting classes at the Old Globe Theatre, training as a Shakespearian actor. During this time Hopper’s artistic breakthrough arrived through his ‘adoptive parents’, the actor Vincent Price and his wife Mary, who took Hopper under their wing and introduced him to their private collection of abstract art paintings that featured works by Jackson Pollock and Franz Klein.

Hopper’s film career launched in 1955 after being cast alongside James Dean in Nicholas Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause ( 1955). Dean became Hopper’s best friend and creative leader, encouraging him to pursue the practices of both Method Acting and photography. Between 1958 and 1968, three key moments in Hopper’s life led to the creation of his directorial debut Easy Rider in 1969. In 1958 Henry Hathaway blacklisted Hopper from Hollywood after he disagreed intently with the director during the filming of From Hell to Texas (Henry Hathaway, 1958). Hopper moved to New York directly after his blacklisting where he met his first-wife and Hollywood royalty, actress Brooke Hayward. When the newlyweds returned to Hollywood and their Bel Air mansion, Hopper began collecting art from up-and-coming artists such as Ed Ruscha and Andy Warhol, while also taking up painting and photography as a serious pastime. But in November 1961, a fire burned Hopper’s Bel Air home to the ground, taking all of Hopper’s art collection and his own works with it. After this Hopper stopped painting, and his wife filed for divorce in 1968. From this heartbreak and considerable loss, Easy Rider was born.

Easy Rider (1969)

Easy Rider is Dennis Hopper’s most legendary film. As his directorial debut, it made $60 million worldwide against a roughly $350,000 budget. The film catapulted Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson into elite Hollywood circles after working for B-grade studios. The film was the third-highest grossing film of 1969, is credited as the first film of the New Hollywood movement, and Hopper won the Cannes Film Festival Prize for the Best First Film in 1969.4 Easy Rider is commonly referred to as a revolutionary film for its candid depiction of drug use and hippie culture, along with its popular psychedelic-rock soundtrack that was the first American feature film to use a score made entirely out of pre-recorded songs, rather than an originally composed score. What is so particular about Easy Rider is that it was made at the end of the 1960s, therefore representing American youth counterculture and anti-Vietnam protest after what Hopper refers to as “the free part”5 – post free love and the exploitation of extensive political protesting.

Dennis Hopper

Dennis Hopper’s photograph, ‘Hells Angels-Couple’ (1961-67).

Dennis Hopper

Dennis Hopper’s photograph, ‘Robert Rauschenberg’ (1966).

Dennis Hopper

Captain America and Billy the Kid during the “We Blew It” scene.

Supporting Hopper’s Duchamp-like approach to filmmaking and his preference for ‘tourist’ art making, Easy Rider existed visually in Hopper’s mind prior to its execution on film. During his years as a blacklisted film actor, Hopper spent considerable time photographing members of the Californian charter of the Hells Angel’s Motorcycle Club. If we recall Hopper’s belief that the artist of the future will only have to ‘point his finger and say it’s art’ in order for anti-art to become art, this specific photographic series indicates that Hopper was literally pointing his finger at a low-culture subject that outside of exploitation films (such as Anthony M. Lanza’s 1968 film The Glory Stompers, which Hopper also starred in) had been entirely ignored by Hollywood. Also during the mid-‘60s, Hopper was photographing his then-unknown artistic friends in a similar visual fashion to his outlaw subjects, such as the intimate photographs taken of his friend, Pop Artist Robert Rauschenberg. At this time, a famous quote attributed to Rauschenberg stated that the “relationship between one thing or another is no longer a gratifying subject to the artist as the awareness grows that… he is part of the density of an uncensored continuum that neither begins nor ends with any decision of his.”6

Easy Rider is inspired by such artistic wisdom as stated by Rauschenberg. Perhaps the most famous line from Easy Rider is the simple “We blew it” muttered by Captain America (Peter Fonda) towards the end of the film. Because Hopper’s film existed partially as another art form prior to its creation, this line becomes a statement that not only echoes Rauschenberg’s beliefs, but also works to ‘point the finger’ at a character that comes to the realisation that his acts as an outlaw (or advocator of ‘free’ love and protest) has not impacted the American public nearly enough to change the political and social patterns of life in the long term. Hopper’s position as ‘tourist’ allows him to see what subjects could be and exist as if given an artistic platform to work within, so perhaps what Easy Rider reveals to its audience is the situation when a subject (or character) has failed to execute the potentialities of what they could be as art subjects.

The Last Movie (1971)

In contrast to Easy Rider, The Last Movie was deemed a critical and financial failure in the United States, so much so that Hopper was again exiled from Hollywood and did not direct another feature film until Out of the Blue (1980). Roger Ebert famously described the film as a “wasteland of cinematic wreckage”, despite the fact that Hopper won the Critics Prize at the Venice Film Festival that year.7 Due to the mammoth success of Easy Rider, Universal Pictures provided Hopper with a $1 million budget, and he took his film crew and friends Kris Kristofferson, Michelle Phillips and Peter Fonda down to Chinchero, Peru to film a story “about America and how it’s killing itself.”8 Perhaps why The Last Movie was so badly received upon its release may be due to the fact that not only does it weave together characters between five interlocking narrative storylines (not to mention the parallel political metaphor allusions each narrative potentially stands for) but the way the film was edited in a highly experimental format, strongly influenced by the cinema of Jean-Luc Godard.

Dennis Hopper

Dennis Hopper’s photograph “Durango, Mexico (Mantilla) 1965

Dennis Hopper

A still from The Last Movie.

The truly radical nature of The Last Movie lies in the fact that the film visually attempts to distort Western understandings of perception in regards to film viewership. The film constantly shifts between ‘real’ vs ‘fake’ filmmaking, and the consequences of failing to make films that meet Hollywood’s tired and typical conventions. Unlike Easy Rider that relied upon the developments of art history to project its revolutionary status, The Last Movie is keenly aware of the developments of Hollywood film history and how the American film industry brainwashes not only its own citizens but also the international public into believing a fabricated ‘real’. Hopper’s film chops and changes between the mini-interweaving narratives and the grander narrative of The Last Movie by using a variety of Godard-inspired editing techniques, such as flash forward montages, bumpy handheld footage, title cards spliced into the middle of conversations stating “Scene Missing” and overlapping sound effects to silence character dialogue (such as the simultaneous sounds of sirens, wind chimes, a baby crying and a shotgun playing all at once). In doing so, The Last Movie reminds its viewers of something that once was. The film watches an American cowboy/western film being constructed and filmed in Peru from an outside perspective. Through the familiarity of the set designs and costumes of American westerns, the audience is asked to recall what makes a western ‘real’; just like Hopper recalled a ‘real’ Duchamp work by witnessing another artwork that echoed the original, yet was not that original work.

As a ‘tourist’, Hopper uses The Last Movie to point his finger at a subject that had already claimed itself as ‘high art’ prior to his arrival. The film makes a statement about the problematic nature of Hollywood films (particularly westerns) that take-over Third World landscapes in developing countries while filming with their crews, film sets, actors and trailers. What The Last Movie shows is the aftermath of Hollywood filmmakers failing to ‘clean up’ their mess in the Third World landscape, returning home to America knowing that their home turf is free from any presence that may interrupt their daily life. However, the irony of The Last Movie’s statement is as director, Hopper himself completes the very act his film critiques. By making The Last Movie, Hopper’s crew used Peru as a temporary landscape and disrupted the local government and customs, due to both Hopper and his crew’s excessive partying and drug taking at the time of the production. Furthermore, Hopper was free to return to the United States upon completion of The Last Movie to promote the film as a type of documentary that photographs the reality of Hollywood production despite the fact that the film replicates the very behaviour it criticises.

Out of the Blue (1980)

After the intense critical backlash against The Last Movie, Hopper stayed in Taos, New Mexico searching ardently to find a job in Hollywood as either actor or director. Sometime after filming Apocalypse Now (1979), Hopper was cast as the father in a film called Cebe, about a teenage girl who is put through a rehabilitation program by a court-appointed psychiatrist after she kills her alcoholic father who has molested her. Before Hopper had a chance to film his first scene, production on Cebe was halted. After two weeks of filming, the film’s executive producer declared the dailies were unusable, filmed by first-time director Leonard Yakir. Before the production completely shut down, Hopper took over as director, rewriting the script in a few days and changing the film’s title to Out of the Blue, named after his friend Neil Young’s B-side track ‘My, My, Hey, Hey (Out of the Blue)’ that Hopper then used as the film’s score. Inspired by lead actress Linda Manz’s love for playing drums, Out of the Blue became a film about a teenage girl striving to become a punk musician, who lives through the punk scene in order to escape the struggle of living with a heroin addicted mother and an absent father who has spent the last five years in prison. Hopper scrapped the relationship between Cebe and the psychiatrist almost entirely, and removed most references of Cebe’s sexual abuse from her father until a pivotal attack that ends the film. Out of the Blue is the first attempt by Hopper to use a female character as the eyes and ears of the film’s narrative, a feminine lens through which to understand underground art movements and family struggles. Similar to Easy Rider, Out of the Blue focuses on a family of criminals, except now the criminals have been demanded by a court of law to (at least attempt) some kind of rehabilitation post-arrest. No longer is an apparent ‘freedom’ in relation to drugs a luxury to be taken up without consequence – Hopper’s criminals now need to return to a home base.

Dennis Hopper

Linda Manz in Out of the Blue.

Dennis Hopper

Linda Manz in Out of the Blue.

Dennis Hopper

Dennis Hopper photographed in his home in Taos, New Mexico in The American Dreamer.

Unlike Hopper’s previous two films, Out of the Blue was not born from an original photograph, but rather a less obvious reference to Hopper’s own psyche and his relationship with his own family. In a variety of interviews during his career, Hopper often mentioned a defining moment of his childhood that resulted in an emotional and mental separation between himself as a child and his parents. After Hopper’s father Jay left the family in order to commence his military service during World War II, Hopper’s mother Marjorie told her son that his father had been killed in a munitions explosion during army training in order to conceal Jay’s role in the Office of Strategic Services.9 After filming was completed on Out of the Blue, actress Sharon Farrell remembered that what scared Hopper most about the project was not the criminal behavior of Cebe’s father, but his belief that the abuse was mostly the fault of Cebe’s mother, who “knew what was going on but … look[ed] the other way.”10 If Hopper’s disposition as a ‘tourist’ serves any purpose for understanding Out of the Blue, it is that the film – while fictional in form – actually exists more as a personal film diary. Unlike any of his other films, Hopper’s camera focuses heavily upon a variety of textures and materials Cebe surrounds herself with inside the family home that express her insecurities and desires, often making moving images still by filming in close-up the delicacy of such items. Hopper’s camera documents objects such as the smooth leather of a stolen jacket Cebe has taken from her father’s closet that she wears as both emotional protection and as a punk uniform, to peeling posters of Elvis Presley on her bedroom walls and the hardware of drum kits and guitars she plays to emulate The Sex Pistols. These images of punk aggression are juxtaposed with an impending femininity in the form of pink lipstick and a pastel-coloured nightgown Cebe wears before bedtime. When Out of the Blue premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1980, international audiences and critics received the film extremely positively, and lead actress Linda Manz was even considered a favourite for the best actress award. Despite it’s positive reception, Out of the Blue never achieved wide distribution in the United States due to the film’s Canadian financers who could not find an adequate distribution deal to release the project across North America. Unlike Easy Rider and The Last Movie that can be understood as ‘message films’ and saw Hopper as filmmaker declaring what should be considered high art in America, Out of the Blue explores why underground art and associated movements appeal to an isolated teenage girl.

Colors (1988)

Dennis Hopper

Dennis Hopper Polaroid.

Dennis Hopper

Before a youth is spray-painted by the LAPD.

Between 1985-86, Dennis Hopper began taking Polaroid photographs of gang graffiti seen on brick walls, storefronts, houses and timber fences in Los Angeles. Hopper switched from his usual Nikon camera to Polaroid film for the purpose of investigative research, a way to record and document the reality of the Los Angeles streets for an upcoming directorial project recommended to Hopper by then up-and-coming actor Sean Penn.11  Originally, Colors was a project developed by Penn for Orion Pictures that was to focus on the relationship between cops and fictitious street gangs in Chicago. When Hopper was hired as director, Colors immediately changed direction through a major script re-write, altering the original plotline about a white cop who busts a black gang for selling cough syrup to a highly realistic documentation of the racial and social divide between two white cops and African and Latin American street gangs in downtown Los Angeles. Upon its release, Colors was a commercial success, with a major contributor to the film’s popularity stemming from the film’s hip-hop soundtrack. Hopper’s soundtrack included efforts from Big Daddy Kane and Eric B & Rakim, to Rick James and Salt-n-Pepa, and the film’s title track was recorded by Ice-T. The release of the Colors soundtrack became such a cultural sensation that the soundtrack was certified Gold by Billboard that same year.

In each of Hopper’s Polaroids, graffiti is literally covered up by block of solid white paint, attempting to remove the graffiti from the public sphere. Hopper’s photography does not capture graffiti as a glorified art form, but an art that is consistently in the process of removal. Hopper’s research displays the status of graffiti as an anti-art (or not worthy of public space), and its removal from public surfaces is an attempt to silence and hide the secondary voices from which it was born. Throughout the entirety of Colors, graffiti becomes a character within the narrative, and it is the first of Hopper’s films to use art explicitly as a character in this way. For most critics at the time, Colors was just another ordinary cop car-chase film. On the surface Colors is a drama about cops chasing criminals – but the most dangerous criminals in the narrative are not the drug or gun dealers but the graffiti street artists. A particular scene that demonstrates hostility from the LAPD towards street artists occurs when Officer McGavin (Penn) and Officer Hodges (Robert Duvall) catch a young boy from a Latin-American gang crossing out graffiti with his own spray-paints on a brick wall. Hodges approaches the boy to ask slyly “What are you doing here Picasso?” McGavin then turns vicious, as he snarls “Hey, this is a misdemeanor; we can take you to jail for this”, and proceeds to hold the boy by the neck up against the wall while spraying his face with lime green paint. Even during the romantic scenes between McGavin and his girlfriend Louisa (María Conchita Alonso), Hopper often foregrounds Louisa against brick walls and storefronts covered by graffiti, displaying a visually sharp divide between her recognition of selfhood and cultural values with her Hispanic community, while McGavin stands on the other side of the line. As a ‘tourist’ filmmaker, Hopper uses the overall narrative of Colors to make visible what the LAPD within the narrative want to make invisible, while simultaneously reminding us that some characters have no choice but to live the lifestyle of invisibility at the hands of white political powers.

Catchfire (a.k.a Backtrack) (1989)

Catchfire is undoubtedly Hopper’s most curious and exploratory film venture. Similar to The Last Movie, his narrative focuses on the reality and illusion of making art. Catchfire is a simple love story, where a young conceptualist artist named Anne Benton (Jodie Foster) accidently witnesses a mob crime. After running away from Los Angeles and finding refuge in Taos, New Mexico, she realises that the hit man sent to kill her (played by Hopper) has instead fallen in love with her. When the film was released, Catchfire confused many critics and failed to find an audience, perhaps due to the fact that the film seriously questions Hopper’s role as film-author. Catchfire is the only film he directed in which he deliberately removed his name from the film credits post-production, opting to use the legendary pseudonym ‘Alan Smithee’.Hopper chose to do this after he originally submitted a three-hour cut to Vestron Pictures for distribution after post-production, only to find that Vestron reedited it without his consent to 90 minutes. To further complicate things, three versions of the film currently exist. The first is a 96-minute version titled Catchfire credited to Alan Smithee. The second ‘directors cut’ titled Backtrack was cut exclusively for VHS and cable television, runs for 116 minutes and credits Dennis Hopper as director. A third 180-minute cut that is Hopper’s original version of the film is said to exist, however this version has never been released.

Dennis Hopper

A fictional Anne Benton artwork in Catchfire.

Dennis Hopper

The real artwork from which the left picture is inspired by, Jenny Holzer’s ‘Truism’ series.

Dennis Hopper

Bob Dylan cast as a fictional Charles Arnoldi.

Visually speaking, the readily available 96-minute version toys with the texture, materiality and specificity of a variety of fine art forms that had been recorded by Hopper on celluloid film. Not only does Hopper focus on paintings, sculptures and reproductions as they exist in their final finished forms, but he also documents how many of these artworks come into being: specific scenes are devoted to watching an artist at work, creating for the camera. Continuing with the pattern he developed in Colors, the range of sculptures, paintings and light installations (from the Italian Renaissance through to American Conceptualism) function as both film characters and clues that unlock ways to understand Benton’s constant shift in character.

Furthermore, the inclusion of artworks also makes the film densely intertextual. Perhaps Catchfire confused critics upon its release because it is not a film that uses intertextuality as a means of quotation in the same ways as the French New Wave. Rather, Catchfire transcends common understandings of intertextuality in cinema because the narrative disguises the personas and appearances of famous ‘real’ artists in favour of fictional anti-representations of their work. For example, the character of Anne Benton is played by actress/artist Jodie Foster, but the fictional artworks that the audience is led to believe were created by Benton are actually LED light sculptures from the ‘Truism’ series created by the American Conceptual artist Jenny Holzer between 1978-87. Another artist ‘double up’ is the casting of folk musician, poet and painter Bob Dylan as a nameless chainsaw-wielding artist in the film, who in turn was modeled after the Californian painter/sculptor/printmaker Charles Arnoldi. Not only are Arnoldi’s plywood drawings included in the film, but Dylan is filmed working on sculptural pieces that appear exactly like Arnoldi’s artworks, and it is unclear as to whether Dylan has made them himself, if Arnoldi provided unfinished pieces, or the artworks were made by the film’s prop designer. Even the El Cortez Theatre in Taos, New Mexico featured in a major set piece in the third act of the film was an actual property owned by Hopper that he used as a studio while he was not making films. Like The Last Movie almost twenty years before, Catchfire points at ‘high art’, which Hopper spends much of the film’s narrative deconstructing.

The Hot Spot (1990) and Chasers (1994)

Dennis Hopper

Jennifer Connelly and Virginia Madsen in The Hot Spot.

Dennis Hopper

A photograph from Hopper’s recently uncovered series ‘Drugstore Camera’.

Dennis Hopper

Actress Erika Eleniak in Chasers, who is framed remarkably similarly by Hopper in comparison to the preceding images.

As Hopper’s last two directorial efforts, both The Hot Spot and Chasers are conventional genre films. Out of necessity, Hopper moved away from producing independent and more experimental features for the simple fact that many of the stories he desired to tell could no longer find adequate financial backing. Despite his shift from independent filmmaking, Hopper’s characters continue to be drifters and criminals that travel endlessly across American highways and through various country towns and cities in the hopes of avoiding their past lives, their memories and jail time. The Hot Spot is a nostalgic neo-noir thriller that follows a bank-robbing drifter named Harry Maddox (Don Johnson), who finds himself sexually intrigued by both his young co-worker Gloria (Jennifer Connelly) and his boss’ sexually bored housewife Dolly (Virginia Madsen) while he takes a job as a used car salesman as he passes through Texas. In contrast, Chasers is a light formulaic comedy that focuses on a Navy sailor Eddie (William McNamara) who is assigned the task of escorting a blond bombshell prisoner from a marine base camp a day before his discharge.

Throughout his career as a still-photographer, the subject of women and the activity of photographing women (whether it be for Vogue Magazine or personal reasons) had continuously been a major source of inspiration for Hopper. Even through conventional genre filmmaking, both The Hot Spot and Chasers ultimately return to Hopper’s desire to make films that reference the developments of fine art history, this time with reference to the concept of the male/female gaze. Both thematically and visually, The Hot Spot and Chasers detail the power of the feminine sexuality over masculinity, and the emotional/physical hold that femininity has over ‘macho’ male behavior. Similar to his investigation of womanhood in Out of the Blue, Hopper’s camera spends much of the film’s run time in both Chasers and The Hot Spot visually dissecting the textures and materiality of women’s clothing, cosmetics and the female body.

In The Hot Spot, a sexual competition between Dolly and Gloria begins when Dolly realises that Harry is infatuated with Gloria’s summer heels. Gloria’s shoes are gorgeously feminine as much as they are beautiful objects, where a pink ribbon is used as a strap around her ankles, and the front of the shoe is adorned with tiny plastic fruits of oranges, grapes, lemons and pink flowers. Later in the film, Dolly presents herself to Harry as mostly undressed but wearing the exact shoes as Gloria, suggesting that Hopper introduces the female gaze into his narrative in order to psychologically complicate what otherwise would force The Hot Spot to fall into the conventionalities of neo-noir filmmaking. While The Hot Spot may toy with the archetype of the femme fatale, the film’s narrative reverses the archetype slightly in that neither Dolly nor Gloria need to seductively entrance Harry specifically in order to fulfill a secret mystery about their characters. Harry is simply an easily interchangeable fresh face in a small town whose past life is of little importance to the two women.

A similar anti-approach to genre is also seen in Chasers. Narratively speaking, Chasers is similar to the basic plot of Easy Rider, where a third-party guest interrupts two men who are travelling across the country. However because the interruption of a two-male narrative in Chasers is a woman, the inclusion of a sexualised feminine presence (and a variety of feminine objects from summer dresses to feminine hygiene products) is used as both a means to subvert the traditional male gaze but to also work as a comedic break. Due to the fact that Chasers is a big-budget studio comedy, Hopper can only make into art what a formulaic Hollywood genre makes room for. If one watches both The Hot Spot and Chasers knowing how Hopper has approached feminine sexuality in both his photographic works and Out of the Blue, both The Hot Spot and Chasers can be interpreted as films that uncover the appearance of emotional confidence, innocence and sexual stability in both women and men that ultimately hide a character’s emotional neediness, occasional boredom and even childish misunderstandings of sexual human behavior.

As a ‘tourist’ filmmaker, each cinematic work directed by Dennis Hopper exists as a unique visual study of American life. From independent features to big-budget studio films, Hopper’s films continuously saw what conventional Hollywood eyes failed to see: alternative aesthetic connections between American cinema and the fine arts, along with the underlying social and political connections between the American art world and ordinary life. While juggling the role of both artist and curator throughout his career, Hopper has left the world with six diverse motion pictures that are rare in that they see the potential in images and characters that were deemed unimportant or unworthy of cinematic space for lengthy periods of history. To discover Hopper’s complex web of artistic references across his directorial efforts alone is certainly a most rewarding film activity.



Easy Rider (1969)
The Last Movie
Out of the Blue
(as Alan Smithee) (1989)
The Hot Spot


Select Bibliography

Ebert, Roger. “The Last Movie/Chincero.” Roger Ebert. January 1, 1971. www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-last-movie–chinchero-1971

Hopper, Dennis. A Tourist. Kyoto: Kabushiki Kaisha Fairu, 1994.

Hopper, Dennis. “Easy Rider (1969).” In Dennis Hopper Photographs 1961 – 1967, edited by Tony Shafrazi 470-471. Köln: Taschen, 2011.

Hopps, Walter and Dennis Hopper. “A Readymade in the Making.” Étant donnés Marcel Duchamp 6 (2005): 187.

Marcadé, Bernard. “Hotel Green (Entrance): The “Inframince” tale of a two-handed collaboration.” In Dennis Hopper & The New Hollywood, edited by Matthieu Orléan, 100-101. Paris: La Cinématheque Française, 2009.

Osterwold, Tilman. Pop Art. Köln: Benedikt Taschen, 1991.

Rose, Aaron. “The Unvisual City.” In Dennis Hopper: Colors, The Polaroids. edited by The Dennis Hopper Trust 1-6. Bologna: Damiani, 2016.

Winkler, Peter. Dennis Hopper: The Wild Ride of a Hollywood Rebel. London: The Robson Press, 2011.

Articles in Senses of Cinema

Master Curator of Readymades: Dennis Hopper: The Wild Ride of a Hollywood Rebel by Peter L. Winkler review by Joanna Elena Batsakis

A Legacy Went Searching for a Film… Dennis Hopper and Easy Rider by Dean Brandum

The Darjeeling Limited and The New American Traveller by Emily J. May




  1. Walter Hopps and Dennis Hopper, “A Readymade in the Making”, Étant donnés Marcel Duchamp, no. 6 (2005): 187
  2. Bernard Marcadé, “Hotel Green (Entrance): The “Inframince” tale of a two-handed collaboration,” in Dennis Hopper & The New Hollywood, ed. Matthieu Orléan (Paris: La Cinématheque Française, 2009), 101.
  3. Dennis Hopper, A Tourist (Kyoto: Kabushiki Kaisha Fairu, 1994), 10
  4. Peter Winkler, Dennis Hopper: The Wild Ride of a Hollywood Rebel (London: The Robson Press, 2011), 127
  5. Dennis Hopper “Easy Rider (1969)” in Dennis Hopper Photographs 1961 – 1967, ed. Tony Shafrazi (Köln: Taschen, 2011), 470
  6. Tilman Osterwold, Pop Art (Köln: Benedikt Taschen, 1991), 145.
  7. Roger Ebert, “The Last Movie/Chincero”, Roger Ebert, www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-last-movie–chinchero-1971 (Ebert 1971).
  8. Peter Winkler, Dennis Hopper: The Wild Ride of a Hollywood Rebel (London: The RobsonPress, 2011), 135
  9. Ibid., 4.
  10. Ibid., 21.
  11. Aaron Rose, “The Unvisual City”, in Dennis Hopper: Colors, The Polaroids, ed. The Dennis Hopper Trust (Bologna: Damiani, 2016), 2.

About The Author

Joanna Elena Batsakis is a university student, academic writer, screenwriter, and an art and film enthusiast from Victoria. As regular contributor to the online American film journal The Focus Pull, her writings demonstrate her fascination for art, films and artists belonging to the Pop Art and New Hollywood movements.

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