Credit Wim Wenders/Significant Productions
“No man is a hero to his valet” has been a truism since the 17th century. It does not apply, however, to Satya de la Manitou, the self-described “right-hand man” to the actor and filmmaker Dennis Hopper for over 40 years and the onscreen narrator of “Along for the Ride.” His reverence for his friend infuses this documentary, shot in somber, stately black and white (except for color clips).
He interviews many of Hopper’s friends and associates, including the art dealer Tony Shafrazi and the actor and filmmaker Dean Stockwell, with whom Hopper so memorably appeared in David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet.”
Trailer: ‘Along for the Ride’
Mr. de la Manitou met Hopper in New Mexico when he was flush with the success of “Easy Rider” (1969) and had persuaded Universal Pictures to fund a metafictional art film called “The Last Movie.” The editing of that movie, in Taos, became the subject of its own documentary, “The American Dreamer” (1971), which seems to depict Mr. Hopper going mad. “The Last Movie,” as hermetically brilliant as it is indulgent, was a huge commercial failure that resulted in Mr. Hopper’s near-exile from Hollywood. Mr. de la Manitou followed.
“Along for the Ride,” directed by Nick Ebeling, does not ignore Hopper’s wild side. Mr. de la Manitou tells of Hopper alienating Taos locals and sassing cops in bars as if these were heroic acts. But Hopper here is an artist as tortured as he was torturing, as if the director is trying to redress some imbalance.
As moving as Mr. de la Manitou’s testimony sometimes is, this movie too often feels like a credulity-straining attempt at hagiography.