Less dramatization of history than a figurative exploration of the American psyche; with class, religion, friendship &war as an ideology explored throughout. In this sense the three-act structure of home, combat & after becomes symbolic of heaven/hell/purgatory; Vietnam as 'Dantean' inferno? Yes, it's indulgent on the part of Cimino, but he's reaching for a kind of emotional authenticity here that's rarely seen.
I saw this film years ago after discovering the magnificent Heaven’s Gate. I rewatch today and despite the fact that I still think this is one of the biggest masters pieces of the american cinema, I hardly recall a film that blanks the real history so well. Like Griffith did in Birth of Nation, Cimino did where. The ending where everyone sings the anthem is revolting.
Does length alone confer importance? No, but you’d think so here. Nor does it provide much insight despite ample opportunity. The film seems to have half an envious eye on the scale and structure of The Godfather but still manages to reduce a series of brilliant vignettes to being stranded miniatures in an epic of running time alone. Schisms of excellence are not reward enough when you have too much of not a lot.
Masterpiece of drama, and a unique deconstruction of Vietnam War era. Both explicit and allegorical, subtle topics of suppressed homosexuality, immigration and female roles in patriarchal community hide potential new meanings and insights. "I love you baby" sequence alone stands as one of the finest examples of film editing I've ever seen.
Christopher Walken and Robert deNiro playing Russian roulette against each other while at gunpoint is a tense cinematic moment. Before we get that far we have a fantastic story that start off with a long-running wedding in "Godfather" style before this end up in a devastatingly bleak and dark place as characters has to cope with effects of war. The entire cast do some of their best work here.
Extraordinary performances, and the workingclass realism of the continental US bookends are (perhaps accidentally) very affecting. But Cimino, self-aggrandizing asshole that he is, is hollow to claim this film is "apolitical." Viet Cong are depicted as a true Yellow Menace; I could give a heck if the Russian Roulette stuff has historical accuracy, but Cimino's dehumanizing is reckless fodder for revenge-cummies.
A week afer rewatching Barry Lyndon, I found some similarities in the many, many perfectly framed shots and lush cinematography (different styles of course - esp the emotional) - The craftsmanship was exceptional, behind and in front of the camera. And yet ... I still wasn't moved. It's a fine film. I won't defend it tho.