The Deer Hunter is an expansive portrait of friendship in a Pennsylvania steel town, and of the effects of the Vietnam War. Led by the trio of Robert De Niro, John Savage and Christopher Walken (who won a supporting actor Oscar), the first hour is dominated by an engrossing Russian Orthodox wedding and reception. When the drama moves overseas it switches from anthropologically realistic documentation of a community’s rituals to highly controversial and still shocking Russian Roulette scenes, symbolizing the random horror of war. Unforgettable as they are, the Vietnam sequences occupy less than a third of the three-hour running time; defying movie convention The Deer Hunter is fundamentally a before-and-after ensemble character study anchored by De Niro’s great performance.
Although it was the first serious Hollywood feature to address the Vietnam War, the plausibility of some of the later plot developments raises awkward questions. But the film remains powerfully effective, its deliberate pace, naturalistic overlapping dialogue and unflinching seriousness marking it very much a product of the 1970s. With nine Oscar nominations and five wins, including Best Picture and Director, it’s a cinematic landmark that stands the test time, almost incidentally setting Meryl Streep on the road to superstardom in her first leading role. –Studio Canal
Michael Cimino studied architecture and dramatic arts from Yale; later he filmed advertisements and documentaries and also wrote scripts until the actor, producer and director, Clint Eastwood gave him the opportunity to direct the thriller Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974). But his biggest success was The Deer Hunter (1978) which won the Oscar for the Best Film. For another successful film he got in trouble: The Sicilian (1987) – critics accused him of portraying as a hero, with his biography, the Italian criminal Salvatore Giuliano. —IMDb
I revisited this for the third time this evening, such a stunning picture, wow, it hits you like a rock, so emotionally overpowering.
Cimino, who would destroy Griffith's co-founded United Artists within two years, makes his version of BIRTH OF A NATION. Perpetuating visions of the U.S. in Vietnam it seeks to dismantle, it is nevertheless an audacious film of the American myth, albeit one of Fordian ambiguities, even outright contradictions. There are aspects of it I just can't bring myself to forgive, but I also can't deny it is monumental.
Heaven's Gate and Year of the Dragon are the same way. Cimino plays race and class relations so close to the cuff that people get put off. No one else has played it this close since Ford. Race and class in Cimino are akin to the complexities of THE SEARCHERS or TWO RODE TOGETHER. Every group has a subjective vision of their own, a true rejection of the idea of the melting pot.
The character limit bit me in the ass here. I had to use "Fordian" as a catchall for the film's very complicated approach to 'Nam and race, which can't be summed up in a graf. This viewing really prompted me to try to grapple with the its racial depictions where previously I was content to write off the whole thing. For a film that so routinely skirts irony (the dangling "Welcome Home" sign when Mike comes out from hiding from that welcome, Russian-Americans forced to play Russian roulette, the God Bless America end) but Cimino never takes that easy way out, and indeed he so resolutely roots his classical form in character perspective that I will have to watch it again (and again) to really cement where I stand with the film. If my blurb sounds too caustic (which I think it does), you should know this still represents a BIG reversal from the opinion I previously held, and I think it really might be a masterpiece.
The Deer Hunter is a cinematic masterwork and a hate film of gross historical distortion. Somewhere between these two subjects, it is also became a successful hit despite being focused… read review
This film could have used some more editing so much of it seems to wander off into pointless ends and some things just end up coming out of right field. In the field the film perches itself on the… read review