Movie Review: Hopper/Welles

Movie Review: Hopper/Welles

9th October 2020 Off By Ewan Gleadow

Copyright: Venice Film Festival

I truly thought I had seen the back of Orson Welles. Welles’ final piece, The Other Side of the Wind, completed some forty years after his death, isn’t entirely his film. His vision, creative process, and eventual appeasement with the picture is absent, and it boils down to a group of editors fooling themselves into thinking they had captured the titan-like powers Welles had behind the camera. They failed to do so, and it was greatly upsetting to think that Welles’ farewell to cinema would be one of sour taste. Hopper/Welles, then, sparks fresh hope. A new release, a conversation between an already established Welles, and an up and coming actor, Dennis Hopper, who had just finished filming Easy Rider 

A conversation between Hopper and Welles, one that was made with the express concern of The Other Side of the Wind, this recording showcases Welles jumping between his thoughts and that of Jake Hannaford, the eventual leading character of his “final” picture. Hopper/Welles is, more or less, an interview. A discussion between two of the greats at a pivotal time in Hollywood, where independent cinema was taking the reins, the ends of the hippie craze and Flower Power loomed, and with that the removal of Hollywood’s classic, golden age. If anything, Hopper/Welles feels like a podcast, more than anything else. Two men discussing their craft, it’s a fascinating piece and wholly engaging. 

There are some amazing moments in this, poignant titbits where Hopper candidly discusses his work on Easy Rider, how he wanted to tap into John Wayne’s audience. Poetic wisdom pours from Hopper throughout. His honest thoughts on how we should live our lives, how we should discuss and dissect film, and his creative process, they’re all detailed here. No biopic or documentary will be needed on his career or life, as it will never capture the depth Welles gets here, simply by having a candid discussion with him on a wide array of topics. The direction takes advantage of this, extreme close-ups of Hopper dominate the screen, as he’s the man that spends most of the feature talking. A few probing questions from Welles conduct a seemingly spontaneous conversation on any and every topic.  

Two men that share a passion for the arts talk about said passion for two hours. Sharing food, drink, and discussion, Hopper/Welles is a great treat for those interested in the mind frame of two truly influential artists. Its engagement depends on your love for the two at the centre of this piece. For those that are fascinated with the consistent releases Orson Welles is providing cinema forty years after his passing, this documentary will be a superb treat. An amazingly rare, raw capturing of the political, personal, and professional climate of Hollywood at the turn of the 70s.