Dennis Hopper, 1936-2010

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06/01/2010 10:32 AM |

A 1971 portrait by Hoppers friend, Andy Warhol.
  • A 1971 portrait by Hopper’s friend, Andy Warhol.

Among the many advertisements you pay to walk through at the Heineken Experience, at their former brewery on the Stadhouderskade in Amsterdam, is a montage of their product placements in classic and contemporary Hollywood films, concluding with young Kyle MacLachlan’s earnest assessment, “Man I like Heineken.”

Dazedly viewing this montage this past Sunday, the day after Dennis Hopper’s death, I couldn’t help feeling it was a bit disrespectful of the Heineken folks not to give him the last word. Even still, I found the whole experience a fittingly surreal coda.

Though he would probably wished to have been equally remembered as a filmmaker, a photographer, and an art collector, it’s performances like Blue Velvet that comprise Hopper’s primary legacy: never merely coasting on his backstory, he was an avid moment-puncturer, an untamed individual scything through backdrops often composed for that very purpose. (Matt Zoller Seitz’s video essay tribute, from earlier this year, sure is swell.)

Indeed, in art and in life, Hopper embodied the best and worst of a generation of solo acts: excess-risking, convention-confronting seeker of truth and beauty on the one hand; burnout self-parody and a late turn to I-got-mine “libertarian” conservatism on the other. I’m honestly not sure which side of the ledger the druggy self-destructive self-mythologizing belongs on, but the world is now a far more streamlined place without it, green and unblemished as a Heineken bottle under target-marketed neon light. Fuck that shit.

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