Before Frances Ford Coppola battled the elements for “Apocalypse Now” and Werner Herzog dragged a steamship up a hill in “Fitzcarraldo,” Dennis Hopperconcocted a Hollywood project so bizarre and ambitious it nearly destroyed his career. He couldn’t have picked a more appropriate topic to put it all on the line: “The Last Movie,” Hopper’s 1971 directorial follow-up to the success of “Easy Rider,” starred the actor as a disgruntled stunt coordinator on location in the Andes Mountains who grows disillusioned with filmmaking and attempts to abandon the industry.
But the ghosts of cinema continue to haunt him, once he’s drawn back to the Peruvian village where the movie was shot to find the natives attempting to make their own imaginary movie — except they’re using cameras and microphones made of sticks, and swapping simulated violence for the real deal. This absurd twist takes on a frantic, disorienting quality, and it’s increasingly unclear just how much “The Last Movie” rests within the disillusioned mind of its protagonist. Aided by a cast that includes Peter Fonda, filmmaker Samuel Fuller (who plays the director of the ill-fated production), and Kris Kristofferson, “The Last Movie” is one of the purest windows into the unhindered spate of creativity that studios allowed in the ‘70s as a fresh generation of talent stormed the gates.