Sunday, March 7, 2010

#67 The Deer Hunter: This is this

1978. dir. Michael Cimino, starring Robert DeNiro, Christopher Walken, John Savage, Meryl Streep, John Cazale.

Seen it before? No.

And so now we come to the sad tale of Michael Cimino, one of Hollywood's great one-hit wonders. Long story short, he made this movie, which was a critical and commercial success. He was given total artistic freedom on his next movie, Heaven's Gate, which was such a huge flop that it almost single-handedly bankrupted United Artists. He's apparently made a couple other movies since, but nothing remarkable or interesting.

But anyway. Robert DeNiro, Christopher Walken, and John Savage play three steelworkers who live in western PA. They decide to go to Vietnam because I guess they think it will be a fun adventure, like when they go deer hunting. It ends up not being fun for anyone - they get captured by the Viet Cong and forced to play Russian Roulette at gunpoint. The trauma of the experience causes lingering mental problems for the three of them, particularly Walken's character, who begins playing the game on his own for money.

The Russian Roulette scenes are almost unwatchably tense, so good job on those, I guess... but why was this movie 3 hours long? The opening scenes, in which we get introduced to the characters via a wedding scene and a deer hunt, take up nearly an hour of screentime. Wedding scenes are tricky things for a movie. It's really hard to make them not boring. Otherwise you end up with a movie like Rachel Getting Married, which was like watching the wedding video of someone you don't know. I don't have a problem with long movies, per se; one of my all time favorites is Godfather II, which is 3 hours and 15 minutes. But you have to earn that extra length, and I don't think this movie did. It would have had a lot more impact if it was 45-60 minutes shorter.

This was one of the first major film roles for Meryl Streep, and her first Oscar nomination. Also, sadly, this is the final role of John Cazale, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer before filming began. (He doesn't look so good, the poor guy.)

Position on the list: 132
"Stanley, see this?: This is this. This ain't something else. This is this." Seriously, what the hell was that dialogue supposed to mean? I don't get it

1 comment:

  1. I was not a fan of this movie. It was hell trying to stay awake through the movie!