Saturday, May 29, 2010

RIP Dennis Hopper

Dennis Hopper was a mess. Fights with directors, drugs, booze, insane movies, a stormy personal life that rattled his last days. He was so crazy for a time the country of Australia, historically tolerant of outlaws, more-or-less ejected him for life as the turbulent shoot of 1976's Mad Dog Morgan ended. He was an easy rider who became a conservative convert and appeared with Gary Coleman in the rightie comedy An American Carol.

But he was a glorious, transcendent mess, who lived one of the great soul-seeking lives of the late 20th century, a life that encompassed modern art and photography and much else. He was a cultural omnivore, and he gave back. Not always smartly, and there was collateral damage as that life, and his work, collided with our institutions and mores. A true iconoclast, brilliant and terrible.

This video essay, and this recollection, say more eloquently what I mean to say. Maybe when you have a hard time articulating what you mean to say about someone, that person was indeed a true original, and best to leave it at that. The strange and beautiful menace of the still, from the mold-breaking Blue Velvet (1986), more than stands in for words.

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