Dennis Hopper died yesterday at the age of 74 after a long battle with prostate cancer. He had quite the illustrious acting, directing and writing career spanning over 50 years.
It is his work as an actor and director in Easy Rider that has left an indelible impression on my life’s journey — though I would be remiss to leave out his role in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet; truly a humorous and frightening portrayal which would stimulate my interest in abstract and beautiful film making as well.
I had obviously been acquainted with Hopper’s work for many years. Probably my first lasting impression came from viewing Hoosiers when I was about 11 years old. Despite the unintended sappiness — and lack of depicting the racial antagonisms and schisms which were inherent in rural Indiana during that time — Hoosiers still remains atop my all time favorite sports movies.
But it is Easy Rider that gave me a real love for true independent film-making and a notion of the fallacies of freedom in a society that celebrated the notion yet thwarted its actual practice.
At the age of 18, in December of 1994; sitting in a bedroom in suburban Arizona with a fine young lass and a water-pipe filled with Mexico’s finest herbal remedies, my life and my appreciation of cinema would take a turn as I watched — mesmerized — Easy Rider for the first time. Captain America and Billy would ride freely through the South West toward a mythical idealism manifested through Mardi-Gras. Yet it ultimately was a hollow and empty journey such as our own lives when we force meaning on the intangible quests that we participate in. continue reading…