At the request of the actor, The American Dreamer was subsequently shown only to students before Schiller donated it to an art centre in Minneapolis several years ago. It has now undergone a restoration and receives a theatrical bow so that audiences can take their own glimpse into this definitive moment, luxuriating in the equally profound and nonsensical monologues that the enigmatic actor delivers knowingly to camera. “A lot of the shit I say is bullshit,” claims Hopper during a drug-fuelled wish fulfilment in which a bevy of beauties are brought to his commune-like home for a ‘sensitivity encounter’. There are numerous moments like this in which he displays a clarity of consciousness, seeing himself far more penetratingly than he sees what’s around him.
Schiller’s original idea was to seek out the real person behind the mythic persona and while this is an impossible task in any scenario, Hopper is far too canny about promoting his own personal brand to allow his guard down in any more than the briefest snatches. “Just act normal? Pretend you’re not here?” he asks with a glint in his eye. The result is a work that stretches the notion of documentary authenticity in an interesting way, but never really engages with the contradictions it raises. There’s all too much of a sense that the filmmakers and those around Hopper, are so glad to be hanging out in the aura of his pensive, stoned genius that they’ll lap up whatever he’s peddling.