Saturday, May 29, 2010

Movie Musings: The Candy-Colored Clown

Dennis Hopper in his iconic performance as Frank Booth in "Blue Velvet"

Shit. Dennis Hopper died today.

What can I say about Dennis that hasn't been said already? Not much.

In 1986 I saw "Blue Velvet." The film had caused a sensation among my friends for it's graphic violence and sexual content so I went to see it. Sitting in the darkened theater I remember being transformed by it. The film opened up another world for me. I'd never seen anything like it.

All the performances were amazing but Dennis as Frank Booth was spectacular.

My friends were titillated by the film's subject matter and surrealistic weirdness. Some of my guy friends liked doing Frank Booth imitations. We all agreed that the scene with Dean Stockwell lip-syncing to "In Dreams" was funny and brilliant. The follow up beating scene not so funny but no less amazing. Dennis' famous quote about Pabst Blue Ribbon still cracks me up.

Not long after, I wrote a sort of essay called "Dennis Hopper Is The Monster" where I muse about his character and his performance, one of the finest I'd ever seen. By that time my friends had moved on but "Blue Velvet" and Dennis had stayed on my mind.

I was familiar with Dennis before "Blue Velvet" though I couldn't remember where I'd seen him (probably in "Apocalypse Now"). Dennis would go on to make many more films and I would continue to enjoy him. We all did.

Dennis utters my favorite film quote of all time in one of my favorite film scenes, the so-called Sicilian Scene in "True Romance."

"Could I, uh, have one of those Chesterfields now?"

There are better lines elsewhere and many of Dennis' lines from "Blue Velvet" are legendary, but this line is perfect and marks the turning point in the scene. Dennis and Christopher Walken have only one scene together and it clocks in at just over 10 minutes long. I read that Walken credits his friendship with Dennis as one of the reasons why the scene works as well as it does. The two men are adversaries but they genuinely like each other.

I noticed this scene is flagged on YouTube as inappropriate. The dialog is offensive for its race relations commentary but if you're using a similar criteria then "Blue Velvet" should also be considered inappropriate for its violence against women. I don't condone either offensive race relations dialog or violence against women but neither of those things can overcome the fact that the Sicilian Scene and "Blue Velvet" are brilliant.

There's more to say about Dennis. I haven't gotten to the movies he directed such as "Easy Rider" and "Colors" but I think others have and will say more about that. For now, it's time to stop.

We'll miss you, Dennis. Rest in Peace.

1 comment:

Daphne said...

Thanks for these remembrances, MT. Dennis will indeed be missed!