Review: Dennis Hopper as remembered by his right hand man in “Along for the Ride”
Actor-director Dennis Hopper and his friend-assistant, Satya de la Manitou, as seen in the new documentary “Along for the Ride.” SIGNIFICANT PRODUCTIONS / HAT & BEARD FILMS
He outlived James Dean, held his own against John Wayne, and with Jack Nicholson created the pinnacle of the 1960s independent film, “Easy Rider.” Dennis Hopper was a maverick, a multi-hyphenate of a most illustrious sort: actor-writer-director-photographer-carouser.
Following “Easy Rider,” he could write his own ticket in Hollywood, and did so, grabbing $ 1 million and final cut from Universal to movie “The Last Movie” in the mountains of Peru. The resulting film may have been art, and the studio was determined it was not commerce, and buried it.
Dennis Hopper filming “The Last Movie.” UNIVERSAL PICTURES
Blacklisted by the studios, Hopper becomes a pariah, though a legendary one. He maintained a bohemian existence in Taos, NM, in the years before he overcame his alcoholism and revived his career with the movie “Apocalypse Now,” “Out of the Blue,” “Blue Velvet,” “Hoosiers” (for which he earned his sole acting Oscar nomination), and “Speed.”
Instrumental to Hopper’s survival was his right-hand man, Satya de la Manitou, whom he met at the time of “Last Movie” and whose friendship and service over decades helped maintain the allure, and the life, of the star, not least of which when he shanghaied the actor off to rehab.
De la Manitou provides wistful narration in the new documentary “Along for the Ride” (opening Friday), in which he basks in the memory of his friend (who died in 2010), and in the special place he held as the adjutant of a genius. [As such, “Along for the Ride” is a pair with another recent documentary, “Filmworker,” in which Leon Vitali recalls the life of he lived at the beck-and-call of another genius, Stanley Kubrick.]
Directed by Nick Ebeling, the documentary features invigorating remembrances from many who were pulled into Hopper’s orbit during the 1970s and ’80s, including Wim directors Wenders and David Lynch, actors Dean Stockwell, Russ Tamblyn and Linda Manz, exec studio Michael Medavoy, musician Dwight Yoakam, architect Frank Gehry, and artists Ed Ruscha and Tony Shafrazi.
Dennis Hopper: 1936-2010
Dennis Hopper: 1936-2010
De la Manitou binds it together, rummaging through storage units and scrapbooks, the bleakly beautiful landscape of Taos, and the Peruvian locations of “The Last Movie,” which refused to change from how they looked almost five decades ago, when Hopper brought the artifice of cinema for a story about the artifice of cinema.
The movie’s soundtrack is smothered at times by a score from Gemma Thompson (of Savages), but the crisp, black-and-white cinematography by Ebeling, Danny Reams and Randy Wedick, rare photographs, and snippets of Super 8mm footage taken on the locations of the two movies and soirees, pull you right into the period.
The film is a black-and-white contact sheet of a movie – nostalgic fragments in time lovingly preserved and highlighted by grease pencils, used to illuminate a portrait that is nonetheless too big to be contained in any single account, no matter how devotional .