deer Hunter is the greatest movie ever made

Along with Tourette’s Guy and Randall Dale Adams, Michael Cimino is my spirit animal.

And The Deer Hunter is Cimino’s finest hour. Nay…the finest hour in film history.

I always love it when filmmakers buck tradition. Now I love James Bond as much as the next guy. But honestly, I’m glad they killed Bond in the latest movie. I hope they do it in every Bond movie going forward. Don’t give the audience what they want. Give them what YOU want.

And The Deer Hunter does that.

So why does no one mention it as one of the great classics of 70s cinema…up there with The Godfather, Taxi Driver, and Apocalypse Now?

Michael Cimino probably has something to do with that. His notorious flop Heaven’s Gate ruined his reputation forever. But as I mentioned, Cimino doesn’t give the audience a rewarding cinematic experience.

There’s a wedding scene that takes 9 hours for fuck’s sake.

But I’ve said this once and I’ll say it a thousand times: The Deer Hunter is not a film. It’s a fever dream.

You know…you’ve had those dreams that were so powerful that you feel forever changed when you awake. But you can’t explain it to others.

So you don’t talk about it again.

That’s the Deer Hunter.

That’s why it sort of gets lost in the shuffle when the subject of greatest movies ever made is discussed. You can’t explain it.

What’s it about?

It’s about coming back from Vietnam.

But is that what it’s really about?

I suppose it’s subject is of family, of friendship…of surviving…and it’s all loosely held together by a plot of three friends going to Vietnam, getting separated, then coming home.

When the the Deer Hunter is brought up, it’s usually in reference to the Russian Roulette scene. And that is a DAMN GOOD scene, perhaps the most tense in all of film. But the ending is perfect.

Is it meant to be sarcastic? Hopeful? Pessimistic?

It all ends ambiguously and unresolved.

Much like a dream.

Michael Cimino might have been a one hit wonder, but damn…

Michael Cimino, American Hero

Orson Wells, John Huston, John Ford, Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan….

Michael Cimino.

Legend

GOAT

The director of the Deer Hunter (1978), who immediately after hoisting the Academy Award for Best Director began work on dismantling a major movie studio by staring production on the Heaven’s Gate (1980)…the greatest Hollywood flop of all time.

The Deer Hunter, Cimino’s magnum opus, is without question one of the great American films. That is if we can call it a “film”. It’s more like a fever dream. Characters drunk as shit drive from Pennsylvania to Washington state, shoot a deer, and drive back…all within 48 hours. Robert DeNiro torches a guy. And the three main characters are forced by a bunch of racist caricatures to play Russian Roulette. It’s an undeniably powerful film that accurately captures the American psyche post-Vietnam.

With the success of the Deer Hunter, Cimino had carte blanche in Hollywood to do whatever he wanted. He chose Heaven’s Gate, produced by United Artists, a story about an obscure dispute in Wyoming in the 1800s and staring a hot, Hot, HOT Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken, and Isabella Huppert (John Hurt’s hot too I guess). It was to be the greatest western of all time, solidifying Michael Cimino as one of the great auteurs.

When production started, problems instantly arose. Doing his best Kubrick impression, Cimino demanded take after take from his actors. He’d delay production to get the perfect shot of the Montana landscape where the film was shot, or demand that sets be torn down and rebuilt to exact specifications. He’d also charge the studio absurdly high rent to film on land that he allegedly owned (respect). The budget soared and United Artist was getting nervous.

Was it all worth it?

Lol, no.

Heaven’s Gate infamously flopped. Critics hated it. And it financially ruined United Artists (the James Bond franchise, arguably their most lucrative property at the time, would ultimately bail them out).

Despite attempts by internet and European critics to say it’s secretly a “masterpiece” 40 years after its release, Heaven’s Gate simply…doesn’t…work. The film looks like shit (sorry Vilmos Zsigmond fans), scenes go on longer than they should, and obviously Michael Cimino was feeling himself a little too much. If wasting money and being pretentious is an art form, then yes, Heaven’s Gate is a masterpiece.

Michael Cimino changed Hollywood. Gone were the days when auteurs ruled Hollywood. It wasn’t until John Landis killed three people (later acquitted) on the set of the Twilight Zone that Hollywood finally put the kibosh on artistic freedom.

Cimino would go on to direct some crap in 1980s, but his legacy was secure. That’s not worth nothin’, and I believe that’s worth honoring.

Michael Cimino passed away in 2016.

While I regard The Deer Hunter to be his finest work, one can’t forget the time Cimino, horribly disfigured by plastic surgery, roasted and mocked the entire crowd at Locarno Film Festival.

Legend