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The Deerhunter

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1978 film, the first unflinching movie treatment of the Vietnam War from the Spam. Received with a bewildering admixture of awe, boredom, fury and intermittent puzzlement, it still frustrates and enraptures critics and viewers to this day.

Deerhunter boasts a superb cast who were largely unknown outside of NYC theatre and art-house films: Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep, John Cazale, Michael Savage; and was directed by the relatively-inexperienced, melon-headed, latter-day ladyboy-wannabe Michael Cimino. Cimino had the backing to make a film like this thanks to the "New Hollywood" movement of the 1970, so he went on to destroy it entirely in 1980 with the most expensive film ever then made: an interminable account of incidental hillbilly power spats known as Heaven's Gate. Cue Simpson and Bruckheimer and them, with their Eddie Murphy and Tom Cruise and Bollocks 3 (the sequel sequel) and that's why, kids, you go to the pictures today and there's nothing on at the multiplex that anyone with half a brain would want to see..


Anyway, around three hours long, Deerhunter divides into 3 acts:

1. Intro the characters at the steel mill, the shithole town, the bar, Steve's wedding

2. Vietnam - the fighting, the capture, gun games, the helicopter evac

3. The consequences upon the characters of what happened in 2).

Escaping from the infamous Russian roulette prisoner game by floating on a log down river, the helicopter evac 'stunt' was very much for real. The actors fell from the chopper skids back into the river when the pilot temporarily lost control. Cimino luckily held onto the door strap and kept the camera rolling.


Spray-painted plastic statuettes

The Deerhunter got 5 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, when Best Picture really meant that year's best film and not Dances With Wolves. This pissed off Jane Fonda no end, as she was starring in the contemporaneous same-subject-but-different-treatment film Coming Home. The Oscar wheelchair-war had kicked off when Fonda complained that Deerhunter was racist and reactionary, and therefore an inaccurate portrayal of the realities of life faced by those both in Vietnam and afterwards; whereas her movie was all noble and respectful in how it showed that the suffering of the Viet vets would be overcome because Jane Fonda loves one on wheels (whereas it was just some sloppy TV-movie-type, Best-Actress-vehicle which gave a miserable situation the soap opera love-story treatment).

Memorable acoustic guitar theme by John Williams (aka Cavatina) went into UK charts in 1978 and was later used for the Take Hart gallery.