Dec 24, 2015
As far as I am concerned, there is no such thing as a bad Dennis Hopper film, at least if the legendary (and somewhat infamous) actor is portraying one of the central characters. Indeed, in his quite remarkable ability to turn otherwise shitty films into something quite enjoyable, including clichéd anti-Southern leftist garbage like Stephen Gyllenhaal’s Paris Trout (1991), Paul Schrader’s hopelessly kitschy pseudo-Lovecraftian made-for-TV turd Witch Hunt (1994), and Jan de Bont’s big blockbuster booger Speed (1994), Hopper almost had alchemical powers as an actor. Arguably, the best example of Hopper’s singular talent as an actor is the rarely seen experimental antiwar drama Tracks (1977) directed by Hebraic wuss Henry Jaglom (A Safe Place, Last Summer in the Hamptons), who is a strikingly self-exploitative and nauseatingly narcissistic auteur that I admittedly have a special sort of hatred and contempt for. A self-described “male lesbian” (notably, in the doc Who Is Henry Jaglom? (1997), Candice Bergen describes Jaglom as having physically resembled a “samurai transvestite” during the 1970s) who thrives on making gynocentric low-budget melodramas featuring singularly repugnant broads and bitch-boys whining and complaining in a thoroughly self-indulgent fashion that hints the director probably missed his true calling as a quack psychoanalyst, Jaglom is a master of the intricately melodramatically mundane, yet somehow his second feature is a mostly continuously enthralling flick that even has a bit of good old fashioned testicular fortitude. Shot guerrilla style on various trains without permits and with Jaglom’s accountant (his brother Michael Emil) and producer (Zack Norman aka Howard Zuker) playing important roles (in fact, both men would portray a comedic criminal duo in the director's subsequent feature Sitting Ducks (1980)), Tracks was considered so controversial and in poor taste upon its release since it was made not long after the end of the catastrophic mess that was the Vietnam War that it is the sole film in the director’s oeuvre that never received theatrical distribution (which is saying a lot considering Jaglom has made so many embarrassingly horrendous films that no one would want to watch). Not surprisingly, the film was not Jaglom’s first excursion in anti-Vietnam War cinema, as he was responsible for buying and distributing the Academy Award winning documentary Hearts and Minds (1974) directed by Peter Davis after Columbia Pictures refused to distribute it, or as Peter Biskind wrote in his book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls (1998), “BBS sued Columbia for various monies allegedly owed, and to force [David] Begelman to released HEARTS AND MINDS. Eventually, Jaglom ponied up $1 million, which he and his partner, Zack Norman, had laboriously raised from dentists and plastic surgeons over the course of five years to produce his own Vietnam-themed picture, TRACKS, to star Dennis Hopper. He bought HEARTS AND MINDS from Columbia, then turned around and entered into a distribution deal with [John] Calley, who released the film in December 1974, in time to qualify for the Oscars.” Luckily, Tracks is nowhere near as lame and emotionally manipulative as a lackluster far-left agitprop piece like Hearts and Minds. In other words, Hopper completely dominates the film and, at the very least, should be considered a secondary auteur, as a true mensch who blessed Jaglom's flick with an ample degree of precious lifeblood that is completely nonexistent in the director's other films.
Forget the sappy sentimentalism of Hal Ashby’s Coming Home (1978), Jaglom’s film utilizes Hopper’s visceral acting prowess to violently express the sense of abject defeat and dreary disillusionment that many Vietnam War veterans felt upon returning home after oftentimes barely surviving battle and discovering no big parades or packs of beauteous women waiting for them. For anyone that is familiar with Jaglom’s oeuvre, it is quite obvious that Hopper took over Tracks and made it his film (in fact, in the audio commentary for the Paramount DVD release of the film, the filmmaker reveals that Hopper tore up a long monologue that he had written for the ending and instead completely improvised the dialogue for the unforgettable final scene). While, quite unsurprisingly, never an actual soldier himself, Hopper was the son of a Master Sergeant in the OSS during World War II, so it is somewhat fitting that he portrays a deranged Army First Sergeant (1SG) in the film. Edited down to 90 minutes from a 4 hour and 15 minute cut first cut (somewhat ironically, Jaglom’s first film job was being involved in the reediting of Hopper’s debut feature Easy Rider (1969), which apparently originally had a 4+ hour running time), Tracks is a sort of raw and erratic cinematic ride from post-hippie hell where Hopper, who was at the height of his substance abuse problems at the time of shooting, gives a truly tenacious and fittingly emotionally tyrannical tour-de-force performance that epitomizes why he is best remembered today as a wayward acting legend who was able to channel his real-life mental idiosyncrasies into his performances. Indeed, if Hopper ever experienced anything resembling boot camp, it was probably his experience working on the film where, despite being in his early 40s at the time of shooting, seems like a genuinely troubled young man that suffers from some serious sexual hangups. Jaglom’s only film featuring an action sequence, Track is a semi-surreal psychodrama about a soldier that, despite being on the brink of complete mental deterioration, is on a special assignment to escort the corpse of his comrade to his hometown and takes a long train ride across the country where he meets various curious characters and even makes a desperate attempt at love when he is not suffering debilitating hallucinations that involve phantom female killers in military drag, jovial gang-rapes, and interracial kidnappings, among other uniquely unforgettable things that you would never expect to see in a film by the director of such excruciatingly feminine whine-fests as Eating (1990) and Babyfever (1994).
At the very beginning of Tracks, quasi-antihero 1st Sgt. Jack Falen (Dennis Hopper) is depicted sitting on a train, asking an unseen person, “Do you think about your childhood often?,” and then awkwardly remarking, “I think about mine…when the going gets rough. I think about my childhood at the strangest times.” Indeed, as an American boy from a poor rural town who grew up regularly exposed to heroic and triumphant World War II propaganda, Falen has a rather romantic of war that is completely contrary to his personal experiences as a soldier that saw action in the Vietnam War and now suffers from a pernicious case of posttraumatic stress disorder as a result. Throughout the film, Falen is depicted carrying around a small radio that is incessantly blasting classic WWII propaganda pop songs sung by the likes of Glen Miller, Frank Sinatra, Dinah Shore, Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, etc., as if he is attempting to live in another time and place that exists solely in his imagination. Of course, Falen listens to these obscenely outmoded anti-jap and anti-kraut pop tunes for largely therapeutic reasons, as he oftentimes finds himself needing to find a ‘happy place’ as a result of the PTSD he has received from his brutal wartime experiences. Despite all evidence to the contrary, in Falen’s mind, his dead buddy is going to receive an extremely warm reception as a ‘hero’ when he is delivered in a coffin to his hometown. In short, Sergeant Falen suffers from a horrible case of denial because, if he were to accept that his traumatic experiences and the deaths of his comrades were totally pointless and completely in vain, it might lead to the irrevocable disintegration of his extremely fragile psyche. Luckily, before elements of reality begin seeping into his rather thick skull and his head eventually figuratively explodes, Falen manages to have some fun with the colorful collection of characters that he encounters on his epic train journey to hell.
Since he is a fairly morose guy with glaring anxiety issues and low-esteem that seems like he could explode into a homicidal rage at any moment as a result of the most minor personal discomforts, it is a good thing that Sergeant Falen’s train is occupied by wisecracking middle-aged Hebrews and a couple hot young chicks, among other eclectic individuals. Indeed, aside from a balding blond Judaic dude named Emile (Michael Emil) that likes philosophizing about chess and masturbation and a bald and swarthy land-peddling swindler named Gene (Zack Norman), a beauteous young brunette named Stephanie (Tyrone Power’s daughter Taryn Power, whose final film appearance was incidentally in Jaglom’s Eating (1990)) and her somewhat less attractive friend Chloe (Topo Swope of Edwin Sherin’s My Old Man's Place (1971), which is also about a deranged Sergeant with PTSD) are just a couple of the passengers that Falen somewhat reluctantly befriends on the train. Hardly a natural lady’s man, the seemingly sexually inexperienced army sergeant is introduced to Stephanie and her friend Chloe by an effeminate lady’s man that dresses like a disco fag named Mark (Dean Stockwell, who of course would later join Hopper in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986) where he would sport similarly flamboyant clothing). When Mark randomly pays Falen a friendly visit in his room to shoot the shit, the protagonist describes how he is accompanying his friend’s corpse across the country and describes how he and his dead comrade would “get high from Thai weed” while hanging out in foxholes and “watch [ing] the tracer bullets flash over us.” In a rather revealing scene that demonstrates how delusional the protagonist is, Falen also states quite romantically regarding his dead friend, “I saw him do the most incredible things. I mean, this man was a Congressional Medal of Honor winner. But the way he bought it, the way he ‘Katied by the door.’ A tracer bullet, like, went right into the foxhole, and, like, it was like a flare coming out of him, and he was running around crazed. That’s the way he bought it, and I’m taking him home. He’s gonna have a band, he’s gonna have a parade, he’s gonna… He’s…” Of course, Falen is in for a rude awakening when he finally comes to the bitter realization that not a single person, including family members, gives a shit about his dead buddy.
Unfortunately, when Falen joins Mark and the two girls for dinner one night, he almost suffers a panic attack and abruptly decides to exit the table to hang out with an inordinately wise young black bartender. When Stephanie gets up from the table and asks the bartender for some olives for her cocktail, Falen seizes the opportunity and awkwardly tell her how she looks like a girl “in a wheat field, with a hammer and a sickle” that he once saw on a commie propaganda poster in East Berlin. From there, Falen acts even more bizarre and unnerving, stating to the little lady in a somewhat creepy fashion like a deranged schoolboy with an unhealthy crush, “I think you’re beautiful. I know that’s very corny these days, to think somebody’s beautiful, but you are. God, I want to hold you and talk to you and feel you, but I don’t know how. See, I’m really shy, and this is very hard for me. I think I’d like to see you in my room.” While Stephanie ultimately reluctantly agrees to follow Sergeant Falen back to his room, the protagonist makes a serious ass out of himself by kissing and licking her in a grotesque fashion in what is indubitably one of the most absurdly awkward make-out sessions in cinema history, thereupon inspiring the young beauty to abruptly flee the scene as if she just encountered a perverted three-dicked devil. Undoubtedly, the most pathetic aspect of this scene is that Stephanie gives Falen multiple chances to arouse her and treat her with the romantic attention that she desires, even asking him “Can I show you how I like to be kissed?” and then clearly showing him what she likes with her supple lips, but unfortunately the protagonist is a sad and pathetic sexual autistic who seems to have nil carnal knowledge. Luckily, the next morning, a wealthy yet fairly unattractive woman that is simply credited as ‘The Lady’ (Jaglom regular Barbara Flood) more or less jumps on Falen’s cock while violently tonguing him in the same grotesque fashion that the protagonist is quite talented at. While kissing the lecherous lady, Falen discuss how garter belts turn him on because his mother wore them, even salaciously stating in regard to his Oedipal obsession with his progenitor, “I wanted her so bad.” Indeed, Falen is both a literal and figurative mother-fucker if there ever was one.
As one can expect for a Jaglom film, a number of degenerates have small but memorable cameo roles, including a dorky tarot card reader (actor/director Paul Williams, who is responsible for directing forgotten cinematic works like Out of It (1969) and Dealing: Or the Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues (1972)), who attempts to impress a group of attractive young gals by stating regarding the “The Star (XVII)” card, “See that. You got all the fluids going on inside of you. It’s not really fluids, it’s energy. You’ve got to put that energy right in the perineum. Perineum. You know where the perineum is? The perineum is right between the anus and the vagina. Now if you can get that energy into your perineum, see, and then bring it up your back into your head, then drop it through your head back down to your solar plexus, and then let it drop back down to the perineum again. You never have to make love again. ‘Cause you could just circulate your energy right around. You’ll never have to make love again.” Needless to say, the girls practically shit their pants laughing while the tarot reader preposterously pontificates on the power of the perineum (actually, contrary to what Mr. Williams states, the female taint is quite weak and often suffers trauma during childbirth). While playing cards with Emile, Gene, and a couple other guys, Falen attempts to impress a big burly middle-aged black man by passionately stating, “I’m escorting a coffin. Across the country. It’s a black man in that coffin. It’s a great black man. He saved my life, and I’m taking him home. I’m taking him home a hero. He’s gonna be Jackie Robinson when he gets home.” Naturally, Falen is not too happy when the negro gets visibly agitated and states, “I lost 21 guys in Korea. They’re buried over there. 21 out of 30. Why in the hell do you think you have the monopoly on feeling sorry for yourself? You only have one. I had 21. Sergeant, get off my back with this bull. I’ve lived a lifetime. A lifetime with 21 dead men,” thus further wounding the protagonist's sense of pride. In fact, Falen is so upset by the jigaboo ex-GI’s less than sensitive remarks that he suffers a horrific hallucination where he imagines seeing Mark and a couple other guys laughing while gang-raping Stephanie in the back of the train car. Of course, Falen’s visions only get all the more disturbing from there as he becomes more and more aware of the harsh bitter truth.
During a rather revealing scene that manages to be both sad and pathetic, Falen’s exposes his fairly desperate reasons for joining the army by stating to Mark in regard to his impoverished childhood, “I wanted to know where the trains were going. I wanted to know where they were going […] ‘Cause I couldn’t go anywhere. We were real poor. I couldn’t go anywhere, and I wondered where they were going. And so I joined the Army.” While Falen and Mark share a fairly sentimental moment of camaraderie after the two realize that they are both child runaways, their friendship comes to a swift and ugly end when Falen goes crazy upon seeing some MPs on the train. Indeed, after stripping off his uniform and scaring guests by walking around completely nude, Falen attempts to evade the military men by putting on civilian clothing and hiding in his room, so naturally he freaks out and refuses to help Mark when his friend randomly appears while in a clearly distressed state and begs him for help in what is ultimately a darkly hilarious scene juxtaposed with Carson Robison’s singing the anti-Japanese WWII propaganda song “We're Gonna Have To Slap The Dirty Little Jap.” Indeed, upon abruptly showing up at Falen’s room, Mark reveals he is a fugitive yippie Abbie Hoffman type on the run and that he is attempting to evade being captured by government operatives, declaring while in a terribly panicked state, “I’m not what I seem. I’m not the guy that you’ve even met. I’m political, very political, radical political. And I mean, all my jewelry and stuff, it’s just a cover, ‘cause I’m underground, very underground. And there’s someone on this fucking train that’s a fink. So all you got to do is hide me. Will you do that for me?” Of course, Mark’s revelation causes Falen to suffer serious cognitive dissonance to the point where he eventually becomes exceedingly enraged and somewhat irrationally screams at his new friend, “My buddy died because of guys like you. You’re the guys that killed him. You’re the guys that killed him! I want you out in the hall” and then throws him out of the room.” After a semi-slapstick oriented chase sequence that involves the outlaw revolutionary jumping out of the train and attempting to board another, Falen passively watches from his room window as Mark is captured and manhandled by Gene and a couple Gestapo-esque hippie-hating MPs. Indeed, to the surprise of both Falen and the viewer, it turns out that Gene is actually a ‘fink’ government agent. As for Falen, he later rationalizes his treachery by remarking in regard to Mark that, “It’s guys like that that have to be sacrificed, no matter how much you like them,” though it is clear that he is actually wracked with guilt.
While Stephanie opts to ditch her plans with Chloe to stay on the train with Falen, the protagonist badly botches the clearly doomed romance. Notably, Stephanie reveals to Chloe that she is only interested in Falen as a sort of pity fuck, stating to her friend, “I just want to give him something nice, just once. He’s had nothing nice in his whole life,” as if she is a premium piece of pussy that is on a Christ-like mission of sexual altruism to sacrifice her glorious golden cunt to a lowly lumpenprole loser who probably does not even know where to insert his prick. Unfortunately for Falen, when it comes to finally prodding Stephanie’s prized puss, the good sergeant suffers a sort of drugless trip during mid-coitus where he begins shouting in regard to betraying Mark, “It’s guys like that that have to be sacrificed, no matter how much you like them,” thus inspiring the little lady to scream “you’re crazy” and “get away from me” and then runaway like her life depended on it. Of course, considering the sex scene is somewhat surreal and inordinately ethereal as a result of taking place in the curious setting of a sunny and scenic grassy hill, the film hints that this is just another one of Falen’s hallucinations, though it is unquestionable that the foredoomed romance has ended as completely Stephanie disappears from the film after her truly nightmarish erotic encounter with the angst-ridden antihero. As can be expected at this point in the film when the antihero’s behavior and actions are increasingly unpredictable and nonsensical, it becomes harder and harder for both the viewer and Falen to discern between reality and delusion. In one of the more darkly comedic hallucinations scenes, an old rich woman attempts to calm Falen’s worries by patronizingly stating to him, “Don’t you know that everything’s going to be just fine? You’re going to forget this in no time flat. Why, good heavens. I’ve seen this happen to so many people, and some of them can’t take it, but you can take it. I can see it right in your eyes. You’re a courageous little boy, and you’ve nothing to worry about, believe me,” only for two high yellow negro train workers to appear out of nowhere, pick up the old woman as if they are terrorists kidnapping a hostage, and then disappear with her just as abruptly as they appeared. Additionally, when Emile disappears from the train and Falen asks Gene where he is, the land-peddler-cum-government-agent acts like he is crazy and says he does not know anyone named “Emile,” thus causing the viewer to call into question every single thing that they have watched previously in the film.
If the trip was a decided downer, Falen’s homecoming is a soul-crushing nightmare where he is brought face-to-face with the bitter realization that he has been trying to ignore during the entire film, thereupon eventually causing the antihero to go completely berserk like a real ancient Germanic berserker that is tripping on acid. Indeed, upon arriving to his hometown and exiting the train with his dead comrade’s coffin, Falen is shocked to discover that there is no large crowd of people waiting there to welcome him and his postmortem friend as heroes. After his less than glorious arrival, Falen gets somewhat nostalgic and decides to revisit all the important places from his childhood, including his elementary school and family home, though he does not find a single person at either of these locations. Undoubtedly, it almost seems if Falen is trapped in a ghost town. Notably, while all this is going on, Falen is carrying his portable radio and blasting WWII propaganda songs, as if it will make him feel more like the hero that he expected to be treated as for his service in the war effort. In a pathetic symbol of Falen’s sub-meager family background, there is a wooden sign on the wall of his home that reads, “Poverty Is No Crime” (although mere speculation, somehow I doubt a real poor person would own such a sign). Upon entering his childhood bedroom, it becomes quite apparent why Falen joined the military, as the room is full of World War II propaganda posters and armies of toy soldier figurines that clearly imprinted the protagonist with a deep fetishization for boots and bullets at a very young age. Of course, quite unlike the Vietnam War, World War II was the supposed ‘good war’ where American soldiers ostensibly proved that good could truly triumph over evil by stopping the sinister krauts, japs, and guidos from taking over the world and were thus warmly welcomed as morally pristine first-class heroes when they came back home. When Falen finally goes to his comrade’s funeral, he is shocked to see that no one is there aside some cemetery workers and a couple middle-aged men that the protagonist previously met at the train station. As a man that expected a lavish parade full of pageantry and thousands of highly sympathetic mourners for his friend, Falen is naturally disturbed by the low turnout at the funeral and screams, “He’s the biggest hero that’s ever been here. No one showed up. No one.” After scaring off the handful of funeral attendants by demanding that they leave, Falen begins stating to himself in an increasingly irate fashion, “I love. I love. I love. I really love. I really do love. I really do love. I love. I love. I love. And I hate. And I hate. And I hate. And the guys I love. ‘Cause I love I hate! ‘Cause I love I hate! ‘Cause I love! ‘Cause I love! You motherfuckers!” while bizarrely entering his dead friend’s grave. From there, Falen opens his comrade’s casket and finds weapons, an army uniform, and a Vietnamese flag instead of his black buddy’s body. When Falen emerges from the grave, he begins charging an imaginary enemy while sporting full military regalia and wielding a weapon in a symbolic scene that demonstrates that the protagonist has finally entered a metaphysical hell and embraced full-blown insanity.
While Jaglom is as distinctly ball-less as filmmakers come as a sort of spiritual eunuch whose films make those associated with the dreadful mumblecore movement seem like aesthetically audacious expresses of rampant masculinity, Tracks is indubitably dripping with irate testicular fortitude, albeit of a somewhat unhinged drugged out sort that only an insanely intemperate nut-job like Dennis Hopper could be capable of. Although the film predictably makes a couple attempts to make stupid left-wing statements, I think it ultimately manages to say more about the war and zeitgeist than most antiwar flicks of its time due to its overall abstract and keenly chaotic nihilistic spirit. After all, there is nothing more phony, pathetic, and patronizing than a film that attempts to coldly intellectualize the horrors of war. Not surprisingly, according to Jaglom, the only fans the film had when it came out was Vietnam War vets, who were probably desperate to find some sort acknowledgement of their miserable plight as men that risked their lives to fight in an uniquely unpopular war that completely divided the nation to the point where these soldiers were looked at as outcasts and even war crimes (of course, kitschy big budget Hollywood twaddle like Brian De Palma's Casualties of War (1989) would later help to perpetuate this social stigma). Also according to Jaglom, who had the film reels of the flick shipped to The Godfather director, Tracks apparently partly influenced Francis Ford Coppola to begin working on Apocalypse Now (1979), which of course ultimately featured Hopper in a more harmless but all the more patently pathetic role. Somewhat surprisingly (or not so if you are familiar with the fact that Jaglom was friends with her), erotic novelist Anaïs Nin, who was herself married to American experimental filmmaker Hugh Parker Guiler (aka ‘Ian Hugo’), was also a fan of the film and once wrote, “TRACKS takes you into the heart of the American Nightmare.” Arguably, more interestingly, Peter Biskind, who heavily documented Hopper’s borderline insane behavior during the late 1960 through 1980s in Easy Riders, Raging Bulls (1998), paid the film and its lead a great compliment when he wrote that it featured, “The best, most powerful performance of Dennis Hopper’s career!” While not exactly a conventional war film by any means, I, for one, would certainly rather re-watch Tracks over so-called classics of the genre like Coming Home (1978), Platoon (1986), Hamburger Hill (1987), Born on the Fourth of July (1989), Casualties of War (1989), Heaven & Earth (1993), and the various other covert agitprop pieces that remind me why I usually cannot watch a film about the Vietnam War without feeling the urge to stomp some Hollywood producer to death.
Naturally, considering both films feature the actor involved in strange behavior while roaming around a train like a mental patient that escaped from a loony bin, it is only fitting that Hopper also portrayed Tom Ripley in Wim Wenders’ Patricia Highsmith adaptation Der amerikanische Freund (1977) aka The American Friend the same year that Tracks was released, though the Easy Rider director strangely seems like he could be nearly twenty years older in the German-French coproduction (incidentally, the next year Hopper would appear in the obscure French flick L'Ordre et la sécurité du monde (1978) aka Last In, First Out directed by Claude d'Anna, which also features a train setting). As someone that has proudly gone to the effort to hunt down Hopper’s more obscure films, including such unloved flicks as Silvio Narizzano’s psychedelic quasi-giallo Las flores del vicio (1979) aka Bloodbath aka The Sky Is Falling and Roland Klick’s unfortunately somewhat botched rock business flick White Star (1983), I can say without hesitation that Jaglom’s film contains the most criminally overlooked and underrated performance of the self-destruction dipsomaniacal actor’s singularly uneven career. Indeed, even as a proud and unrepentant anti-Jaglomite, I cannot deny that Tracks is a wickedly wild and waywardly whimsical cinematic ride that almost makes me wish I could take a cross-country trip on a train with a deranged war veteran and a couple eccentric Mel Brooks-esque heebs. While the filmmakers of the New Hollywood era like to style themselves as original arthouse auteurs that were following in the footsteps of Godard and Truffaut, Jaglom's feature, which oftentimes feels wholly improvised and features a fairly anarchic narrative structure to the point of having a fairly unforgettable oneiric essence, undoubtedly makes the cinematic works of Coppola, Scorsese, and Bogdanovich seem quite contrived and classically Hollywood-esque by comparison.
In his directing of Tracks and backing of Peter Davis’ doc Hearts and Minds yet vocal support of Zionism and Israel, Jaglom represents the height of hyper Hebraic hypocrisy that epitomizes Hollywood. Indeed, Jaglom’s first film was actually an amateurish five-hour 8mm Zionist documentary featuring Israeli martial music that the filmmaker shot in the aftermath of the Six-Day War during one of his many trips to Israel (in fact, fellow wealthy kosher commie Bert Schneider, who was actually once Jaglom’s Jewish summer camp counselor, decided to hire him to reedit Easy Rider after seeing the doc and being impressed with the film's editing). In other words, Jaglom and virtually all of the other Judaics in Tinseltown are not the loving humanistic peaceniks and pacifists that they pretend to be, as the majority of them are racially nationalistic Jewish supremacists who only bitch about war when it is a war against an ideology that they support like communism and other anti-European causes (notably, Jaglom’s bud Schneider was a longtime financial supporter of the Blank Panther Party and even helped Huey P. Newton to flee to Cuba after he committed the senseless non-political killing of an 18-year-old girl who offended him by calling him “baby”). Indeed, if hostile Vietnamese people surrounded Israel as opposed to Arab caveman, Jaglom and his kosher kinsmen would certainly not pretend to shed tears for a bunch of dead gooks. Still, despite its occasional retarded and clichéd far-left sentiments (e.g. Dean Stockwell portraying an Abbie Hoffman-esque Yippie type who is betrayed by the protagonist), Tracks is one of the few films about the Vietnam War that does not portray vets in a phony, sentimental, and/or patronizing fashion, which is largely the result of Hopper’s ballsy no bullshit performance as a Kansas-bred man of Scottish stock who, quite unlike candy ass Martin Sheen in Coppola's Apocalypse Now and his tranny-fucking son Charlie in Stone's Platoon, is someone that America's white majority can identify with. Forget other antiwar flicks, Jaglom's film ultimately makes for the perfect doubt feature with Hopper's similarly obscenely underrated feature Out of the Blue (1980). While Mr. Hopper may have never went to war, there was certainly a war going on his head, thus making it all the more fitting that Tracks is an allegorical flick that depicts in a delightfully deranged way one man's death march to hell. Undoubtedly, far more important than its dubious antiwar message, the film demonstrates that madness can be an art form, with Herr Hopper being a sort of all the more primitive van Gogh of acting.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 4:19 AM
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