Michael Cimino Andrew Sarris - Essay

Andrew Sarris

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The Deer Hunter, a] three-hour saga of three Russian-American Pennsylvania steelworkers in and out of Vietnam, turns out to be massively vague, tediously elliptical, and mysteriously hysterical. The script … does not contain a single witty, sharp, or revelatory line of dialogue. As if to compensate for this verbal aridity, the players are encouraged to indulge in interminable wet-eyed sensitivity sessions…. The Deer Hunter thus reflects in its operatic inarticulateness certain tendencies in the supposedly ambitious American films of the past decade, while at the same time it slips in a disturbing subtext for which Cimino alone must held accountable.

Frankly, I suspect that this film has less to do with Vietnam or even male bonding than it has to do with a particularly devious expression of homosexual panic…. In a sense, The Deer Hunter has thrust the subject upon me by failing to be convincing on the psychological, sociological, or historical surfaces of its narrative. All that is left is Cimino's personal mythology, and therefore a description of The Deer Hunter is in order before we commence with the diagnosis….

There is no feeling of an oppressed proletariat in Cimino's vision of industrial labor. At most there is an intimation of boredom, from which male camaraderie after working hours functions as a boisterous release. Michael and Nick and Steven and Stan and a few other of their buddies surge into a barroom where the Steelers-Eagles games is playing on TV, and there is some palaver about betting on the points. But there is no knowingness or conviction in the way the scene is handled. No one really seems to care whether the Steelers win or lose. The banter is all too self-consciously fleeting and perfunctory, and the atmosphere is already too hot-house actorish for cold beer.

The film spends a whole hour at the Russian Orthodox wedding of Steven and Angela without telling us anything interesting about either the characters or the community….

Because the viewer's mind may start idling during this first hour, the fact...

(The entire section is 875 words.)