"...And into the black." Directing for the first time since The Last Movie, Dennis Hopper introduces the scrappy teen protagonist (Linda Manz) and her junkie mom (Sharon Farrell) with a tight, easeful extended take at the dinky diner, just to shake off the rust. The kid's two sanctuaries are a shrine devoted to Elvis, and a rotting truck carcass into which she climbs to spray the airwaves with a litany of Johnny Rotten koans ("Subvert normality!"); her trucker father (Hopper) is in jail, but shows up in Manz's dreams to plow his rig through a stalled school bus. Small-town life is a matter of trailer parks, bowling alleys, and honky tonks, so the pissed-off tomboy runs away to the big city for a punk concert; a raucous street singer presents her with an offhand aria, the filmmaker can be heard cheering from behind the camera. The joyride lands her in the office of counselor Raymond Burr, though not before a detour into a tawdry hotel room, where Manz is serenaded by a stoned cab driver, a tranny with a hiked-up skirt savors a lollypop, and Hopper arranges the whole thing into a Weegee snapshot. The same impressionistic eye combines a valley of rubbish pecked at by albatrosses with Neil Young's "Thrasher," and stages the father's homecoming party as a volatile jag teetering on collapse. The '60s hangover hangs over the familial structure, with the film a severe progression through the younger generation's self-lacerating killing of idols -- Manz guides her father's face toward her crotch with one hand and reaches for a razor with the other, only able to escape via a literal detonation. This is Hopper's mature masterpiece, for sure, jagged, rough, and lyrical: Harmony Korine lifted the whole kit and kaboodle in Gummo, including Manz, who here provides a scarring moment mumbling "Heartbreak Hotel" to herself outside a greenhouse, devastatingly etching the character's life into the lyrics ("I get so lonely... I could die"). With Don Gordon, Eric Allen, and Fiona Brody.
--- Fernando F. Croce