Hopper/Welles is a fascinating time capsule. In footage originally shot circa 1970 for The Other Side of the Wind, an unseen Orson Welles (ostensibly playing the role of Jake Hannaford—a character that draws more than a little inspiration from his own public persona) interviews Dennis Hopper (still riding high on the critical success of Easy Rider) about his creative process. The resulting informal, improvisatory conversation—which delves into such heavy topics as philosophy, psychology, poetry, politics, and religion—epitomizes the conflict between the declining Golden Age of Hollywood and the then-burgeoning American New Wave: the complacency and conservatism of the older generation versus the rebellious spirit of youth, tried-and-true storytelling formulas versus less conventional narrative structures, romanticism and sentimentalism versus emotional authenticity, cold commercialism versus artistic vision, et cetera. Neither a pure documentary nor completely fiction (yet somehow also both at once), the film offers a unique insight into the minds of two brilliant, iconic directors struggling to keep their careers afloat in a rapidly evolving industry—which makes it 130 minutes of sheer bliss for devoted cinephiles.
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