Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
The Last Film Festival: Dennis Hopper’s Final Bow
is hard to root against roguish independent producers like Roger Corman,
William Castle, and Robert Evans. Nick Twain is definitely cut from similar
cloth, but he has fallen on hard times late in his career. Nevertheless, he
carries on. In his case, that means flogging a dog’s turkey titled Barium Enigma. Only one film festival
has standards low enough to accept it, but a pro like Twain can still spin it
into PR gold, if the so-bad-its-baffling film sweeps the awards. Twain intends
to make sure of that in Linda Yellen’s The
Last Film Festival (trailer
the late, great Dennis Hopper’s final film, which opens this Friday in LA.
should be busy festival for Twain. He thinks he has cut a deal with the politically
ambitious mayor of O’hi, Ohio to deliver a clean sweep of the O’hi Film
Festival’s Golden Spindles (yarn is a big deal in this burg). However, since
his ex, the gracefully aging Italian sex symbol Claudia Benvenuti, who largely
financed the picture is up for best actress against her co-star, Twain’s current
unfaithful starlet lover, somebody is bound to be disappointed.
complicating matters, Twain’s Tom Cruise-ish star is missing and a trench coat
wearing woman keeps stalking him, claiming she is his love child. That last
part is a little embarrassing for Twain, but it will not prevent him from
receiving the festival’s humanitarian of the year award—and justly so.
Dennis Hopper passed away seven years ago while still filming LFF, unintentionally leaving Yellen in a
bit of a bind. Yet, you wouldn’t know it from the final cut. Hopper (who
reportedly thought he was in remission until he suddenly and precipitously fell
ill), looks reasonably hale and hearty and just oozes devilish charm. He seems
to understand all of Twain’s lines are funnier because he is Dennis Hopper
(director and star of The Last Movie)—and
he’s okay with that. It is just jolly good fun to watch him chuckle his through
also forges some deliciously arch chemistry with Jacqueline Bisset, a good
sport perfectly cast as Benvenuti. In a way, LFF would make a weirdly appropriate double feature with Truffaut’s
Day for Night, in which she played
the scandalous British starlet. On the other hand, the charismatic Leelee Sobieski
is woefully under-utilized as Twain’s possible illegitimate daughter, but it is
entirely possible she had more involving scenes with Hopper that were sadly not
to be. Unfortunately, Chris Kattan is as annoying as ever as Harvey Weinstein,
O’hi’s namesake undertaker and camera-phone snooping film festival president.
humor of Yellen & Michael Leeds’ screenplay is definitely hit or miss, but
again, it is possible many of Kattan’s gags had to stay, due to Hopper’s
untimely demise. Frankly, it is rather remarkable how Yellen and the editors,
Bib Jorissen and Steve Kraftsow cobbled together such a smooth narrative flow.
Ironically but perhaps fittingly, Hopper’s Twain explains to his youthful agent
how King Vidor solved a similar problem when Tyrone Power died midway through Solomon and Sheba.
It is nice to finally have LFF gracing screens. It is not perfect, but the overly broad
comedic excesses never stick to Hopper (or Bisset). Frankly, it further
burnishes his reputation, allowing us to see a sly, slightly screwball side of
Hopper we rarely saw in his largely dark filmography. Recommended for Hopper
fans and those of us who have been around a few oddball fests, The Last Film Festival opens this Friday
(9/30) in Southern California, at the Laemmle’s Royal and Playhouse 7 theaters.
Labels: Dennis Hopper, Jacqueline Bisset