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The Deer Hunter
Charles Drago Wrote:Peter, Jan, et al,

I can't resist chiming in on this wonderfully illuminating and challenging thread.

Charles - I've always shared your view that DPF should be a place where art and politics can be discussed and argued over.

Welcome to this thread. I was hoping you'd show up. :bandit:

Charles Drago Wrote:If we reject the either/or, this/that approach to arts criticism, I believe we arrive at the realization that The Deer Hunter is indeed, as Jan notes, ambiguous in its messages. And ambiguity often reflects the artist's own multiplicities of viewpoints and values.

I read Cimino's ending as a terribly depressing testament to the power of tribalism. What did any of the characters -- with the exception of Nick and in particular Michael and Steve -- learn from the horrors they experienced? That in the end, country endures?


I've watched The Deer Hunter many many times.

I've watched it intently, allowing myself to be sucked into its world, maybe three times. Once, I had a very similar reaction to yours above.

Depressingly, for these characters, Country endures.

The other two times, I had a different reaction.

One time, the characters seemed to have an unconscious realization that country, flag, honour, as they had always defined it, was empty, meaningless.

John, the bar owner, asks: "How does everybody want their eggs?"

The Meryl Streep character, who loves both Nick and Mike, tersley responds: "How about just scrambled, John?"

A moment of silent reflection is broken by Angela, Steven's pharmaceutically zombified wife, saying: "It's been such a gray day."

The banality is absolute.

To fill the silence, John, who never left immigrant steel town, starts singing "God Bless America". And the others pick it up. Still desperate to belong. Even though what they thought they belonged is dirty, contaminated, broken.

The third time I was sucked into The Deer Hunter completely and absolutely, after watching the ending, I just sat on the floor for hours afterwards, thinking what the fuck is this film about????

Charles - I am in total agreement about the perhaps necessary and inevitable ambiguity of art.

Charles Drago Wrote:Only Nick recognized what he saw when the curtain briefly parted. One of the most telling scenes in this regard takes place when Nick, in a Saigon hospital, is asked by an attending physician who his reading his chart, "Is that a Russian name?"

Nick laughs and cries at the grossest stupidity -- at the same stupidity evinced by the Johnny Mann singers at film's end.

Another great and ambiguous scene is when the mysterious American (as opposed to Russian American) Green Beret arrives at the bar near the climax of the wedding.

Quote:It's a Green Beret !
- [ Steven ] Hey ! Whoo ! - [ Mike ] No kidding.
Jerry ! Jerry, give the man a drink.
- Hey ! - Give him a drink !
- Sir ! Sir ! - Sir !
Na zdorovije.
- Na zdorovije. - Na zdorovije.
Don't cause any kind of problem, huh ?
Nah, I wanna talk to the man. I wanna talk to the man. We're goin' over there.
Sir, Mike Vronsky.
- Nick. This is the groom, Steve. - I'm the best man.
We're goin' airborne, sir. What's it like ?
- I hope they send us where the bullets are flyin'. - That's right.
- Fighting's the worst, huh ? - [ Both ] That's right.
Fuck it.
- Fuck it ? What did he say ? - Fuck it.
Fuck it. That's what I thought.
W-- Well, what's it like over there ?
[ Mike ] Can you tell us anything ?
Fuck it.
[ Mike ] Okay, fuck it.
Fuck him.
Fuck it. Hey !
[ Steven ] Michael, hey.
- Hey. - Fuck who ?
Fuck who ?
- [ Axel ] Who the hell is he ? - [ Mike ] Who the fuck knows ?
[ Axel ] He looks like a fuckin' hillbilly.
[ Mike ] Give him another drink, Jerry. Just the same.
- Hey ! Fuck it ! - [ Laughing ]
- [ Laughter Continues ] - [ Steven ] Fuck you.

The Green Beret knows the truth about Vietnam. His only words are the existential "Fuck it".

They are not the words these young men, desperate to belong, to prove that they are worthy of belonging to their immigrant town's myth of America, want to hear.

I wonder what Mike or Nick would say to the Green Beret after they have encountered the reality of American War?

Charles Drago Wrote:As for my interpretation of Cimino at film's end: The director very well might scoff at an appreciation that so broadly misses his intentions. I would respond by noting that often times artists are the last to realize what they really mean.


A profound truth.
"It means this War was never political at all, the politics was all theatre, all just to keep the people distracted...."
"Proverbs for Paranoids 4: You hide, They seek."
"They are in Love. Fuck the War."

Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

"Ccollanan Pachacamac ricuy auccacunac yahuarniy hichascancuta."
The last words of the last Inka, Tupac Amaru, led to the gallows by men of god & dogs of war
Quote:I wonder what Mike or Nick would say to the Green Beret after they have encountered the reality of American War?

"Don't Mean Nothin'."That's the phrase most of us use.Pretty much the same thing as "Fuck It" it seems to me.:tee:
"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
Buckminster Fuller
NICK: Flags!


NICK: Patriotism!


NICK: God bless America!


STEVE: Fear it.

MICHAEL: Fight it.

NICK: Fuck it.
My psyche insisted on dragging this thread back from the depths of DPF.


Jan Klimkowski Wrote:Peter - good points.

They make me realize that I view The Deer Hunter primarily as a film about American identity, rather than a Vietnam film.

For me, Apocalypse Now is a Vietnam movie: Conrad's Heart of Darkness meets the Phoenix Program.

Platoon is a Vietnam movie: complete with an ending which is Oliver Stone at his very worst.

I interpret Full Metal Jacket as part of Kubrick's lifelong exploration of Power, Control and the human Psyche. If A Clockwork Orange is about Their attempts to control and channel violence, Full Metal Jacket is about how They create Killers. And what causes Manufactured Killers to break with the conditioning and, potentially, rebel (or not): through Suicide at the end of Part One; and Horror at the end of Part Two.

Joker "mercy" kills the Vietnamese woman. Has he joined the Club? Or rebelled?

The credits roll as Marines exchange their tribal war songs for Disney: Who's the leader of the Club that's made for you and me? M-I-C-K-E-Y-M-O-U-S-E!

The scenes set in the Russian American steel community at the heart of The Deer Hunter resonate very strongly with me. I view the movie as the story of a small, insular, community with a strong code of loyalty: the need to belong of outsiders. Suddenly that fundamental, unthinking, automatic, world view is tested by extreme events. The young men sign up to fight for "their country", to prove their loyalty, and end up playing Russian roulette in a rat-infested hellhole. Vietnam only really exists in the Russian roulette pits of the river and Saigon. For me, Vietnam represents a psychological trauma in the journey of these young Russian Americans discovering what is important and what isn't.

And perhaps this is why the one-dimensional portrayal of the Russian roulette game organizers doesn't really bother me. I don't see them as representing the Vietcong. I see them as extreme manifestations of the human condition, which Nicky (Walken) and Mike (DeNiro) are drawn to and repelled by, in their own different ways.

So, I read the end scenes of The Deer Hunter, Nicky's funeral, and the breakfast wake, as being the culmination of this journey into the psyche of these young people and their discovery of deeper meanings of identity, loyalty, love, hate.

Michael has finally brought Nick "home", to the American immigrant steel town in which he was born and raised.

They sit round the kitchen table, struggling to make sense of what they've been through.

"How does everybody want their eggs?"

"God bless America. Land that I love."

A great and ambiguous ending.

There are current threads on DPF about the programming and conditioning of the human mind for malign purposes, and about vulnerable children who were prey to powerful paedophiles, and who cried out for help and were abandoned.

How does the psyche deal with devastating violence and trauma? With overwhelming violence and trauma that is sanctioned, that is Power Incarnate?

Does the climax of The Deer Hunter occur with the banality of the bar owner who didn't make it to Vietnam saying "How does everybody want their eggs?" before the descent into the safety of an American mythology?

Or does the climax take place at the wedding party just before Steve and Nick and Michael go to Vietnam, when the Green Beret walks into the bar and, when asked about his experiences, says "Fuck It!"?

At the end of Full Metal Jacket, does "Joker" rebel, preserving his humanity, or join the Killing Club?

More than a decade ago, along with an academic researcher of integrity, I listened to the stories of a man who had been a victim of America's human radiation experiments in the immediate post WW2 period. Some of his chldren were stillborn. He blamed it on the radiation he'd been subjected to.

He was from an immigrant community. He wanted to belong to America. He claimed later to have been recruited as a Mechanic (in the Evica-Drago Mechanic - Facilitator - Sponsor model) in MK-ULTRA offshoot experiments.

More than a decade ago, he told me things about the death of Frank Olson that we now know to be true.

He wept as he told of procuring children - street children, orphans - in Brazil and taking them to a compound deep in the Amazon jungle for covert experimentation.

At the time, he thought he belonged.

These powerful people trust me with important work.

I belong to secret America, therefore I am.

As an ageing man, he realised he hated what he belonged to. What he had done in order to belong.

In the end, he refused to participate in a documentary or go on the record in writing. In fact, his testimony now exists as a signed oral history, lodged in a small American university archive, which cannot be published until 30 years after his death.

Anyway, this man was a victim of devastating abuse, and then he joined the system and became an abuser.

He was never able to articulate quite what he wanted. Why he was talking. He didn't see any solution to his lot, any possibility of redemption for what he had done.

He was a religious man. I suspect he thought he wanted his soul back.

I looked through his tears, into his eyes.

I don't know what I saw.
"It means this War was never political at all, the politics was all theatre, all just to keep the people distracted...."
"Proverbs for Paranoids 4: You hide, They seek."
"They are in Love. Fuck the War."

Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

"Ccollanan Pachacamac ricuy auccacunac yahuarniy hichascancuta."
The last words of the last Inka, Tupac Amaru, led to the gallows by men of god & dogs of war
Thanks for this, Jan.

Ambiguity, I sometimes think, is a luxury afforded only to the innocent.
Certainly, the need to belong, to some thing, anything, is strong in most and to break from the pack is difficult and not encouraged. Internally or externally. I also observe that in the underworlds there is always a place for you. No matter your age, class, ethnicity, IQ, social skills. It accepts all. Devours most.
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.

In the middle of the seventies in the middle of Northern New Mexico we were drinking scotch to Jagger on the box. Her husband blew out of there in his sports car. She'd put him through his PhD after his Army service, before his unspecified government job.

He's herded the people into the Rio surf and fired on them, kept firing.

His stories to me and a truck driver from Decatur were all violent exploits ending with his having beaten blacks, whites, hispanics, bashing their heads on columns, floors. He could recite from the bookcases of his study's walls. His favorite picture as a GI with an M-1.

They were talking the Deer Hunter last night, two nights ago. He'd been Army. One of our crew alums confided a posting involving internment. Another cites a sister deploying soon.

No, Charlie Sheen wasn't qualified as a Navy Seal either.

Any given day Vietnam is on a label on me. Cambodia. Always China.

Our friend the colonel: I got an order on my satellite phone to provide safe passage for a drug convoy. The strangest sight I'd ever seen.

A friend who was with Hal Moore has since been quite active in humanitarian causes. Mel Gibson has since been disqualified.

The greatest justice will come when the Chomsky notion of JFK being same-same as LBJ is dispelled

but of course that would require real history

not the beautiful story told by the King of Nepal to foreign service career officer Mirriam F.

the sunlight from the skylight I'd installed for her glinting off her silver hair and spectacles

At the Nixon Counterinnaugural in DC January 69 as night fell after Rudd's Maoists chanted Ho Ho Ho

and banged the iron knocker on steel door of Justice, shirtsleeved lawyers in second floor windows giving us the bird

the shouting was the young man with the flag, "I got two brothers in Vietnam, man!"

and the young man in army surplus replies, "Yeh, well f--- you, man!"

The best film on the war I've seen was a ten-minute black and white silent of Viet Minh pulling howitzer wheels and carriages and barrels

up mountain jungle foilage led by four macheteros stripped to the waist wailing in fast motion

the long inexorable lines of pajama-clad pullers

signalling defeat for the French at the base

on which JFK based his NSAM 263

The fellows in the bar were lied to

all the fairies in dog collars today will not reveal what Benghazi was all about

what the president and SecState are doing with weapons

in one more "foreign engagement"

We've been warned

And the woman in New Mexico was beaten to death by her husband

and her tales of foreign murder dismissed as delirium tremens looking for a thorazine fix

Relax America

it's just about sex

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