Clipped from CA, Manitoba, Winnipeg, Winnipeg Free Press, March 16, 1979

questions, perplexing answersDeer Hunter best Vietnam movie so farMoviesLeonard KladyTHE OEER HUNTER Directed by Michael Clmtno; written by D«rk WMtiburm phetoerached by Vilmos Ziicmond; edited by Peter tinner; mutic by Stanley Meyer*; produced by Berry Spilt-inct. Mlcfraef Deetey, John Peverall and cimino. A UniverMl film* r«lee»e. At tbe Oar rich I. Adult parental Guidance,Michael .................... — Robert D* NiroSftveft John SavatcNfck a*...................—lt; Chrfftonhor walkeftJohn Gcoroo DzundtnAkvI Chuck Asp®flr®flSteven's mother Shirley Stoler.The Deer Hunter must rank as the most anticipated film of the season. Already it has been named best film of the year by the New York Critics Circle, received nine Oscar nominations and become the subject of an enormous ammount of political and esthetic commentary.The story takes place during the Vietnam war. Although a large portion of the action occurs in the Far East, the movie is really concerned with how the war affected a small group of people. In that respect it resembles a contemporary translation of The Best Years ofOur Lives, Unfortunately The Deer Hunter can not match the poignancy of the earlier classic.This is not presented as a condemnation of the film. Clearly it is not the intent of the film-makers to cover familiar territory. The Deer Hunter has other things to offer which are richly deserving of praise. The issues the movie tackles are important, the horror it conveys genuine, and the craft it displays exemplary. *Nonetheless, the movie remains an insular piece, a very personal memory. The filmmakers rely on observation. Often the significance of incidents is left ambiguous. The tone and content shift constantly. At times, one is struck by the originality and power of a scene, then abruptly the audience is thrown a red herring or driven down a dead end.Despite these serious reservations The Deer Hunter is certainly the most relevant of the current crop of Vietnam pictures. In ambition and execution It far exceeds other recent efforts such as Coming Home and Who’ll Stop the Rain.The plot centres on three young men on the eve of their departure for Vietnam. They live in a small Pennsylvania steel town where the ritual of life speaks of continuity and security.Michael exudes strength and self-sufficiency. He is the master of the deer hunt understanding both the rules and morals of the game. Nick is more brash, balanced in his perspective. Steven is the sheltered one of the trio. He is dominated by a possessive mother and is about to marry a demanding wife.In the first section of the movie we are presented with a rich tapestry of life. The set pieces —the mill, the bar, the wedding and the early morning deer hunt are dynamic. Certainly enough material is presented on which to base an entire movie.The film-makers have managed to lace tension into the ordinary events of these people’s lives. A sense of underlying menace pervades the bar where the steel workers shoot a game of pool and sing along with the juke box.Similarly Steven’s wedding offers several vignettes which foreshadow events to come.At the wedding Michael spies a Green Beret stoically diink-ing. He toasts the warrior and attempts to engage him in conversation. The soldier remains impassive, offering a few expletives In exchange.It’s a haunting and confusing image. At times I suspect the character is only a part of Michael’s imagination. There is no reason to explain his presence at this gathering of friends and family.The action abruptly moves to the deer hunt. The ritual echos the wedding in its respect for tradition. The ceremony of loading one bullet in the rifle chamber parallels the drinking of the wine by bride and groom.The opening sequences in Vietnam are set in dramatic contrast to the order presented in Pennsylvania. The film immerses us in battle. Michael and Nick find one another pitted in a game of Russian roulette after being captured in action.The dramatic sequence is concerned with the effect such torture has on the psyche. Michael and Steven will return to theUniversal PhoioRobert De Niro, as Michael, finds he’s not ready for the horrors of war.United States; Nick will go AWOL. All must carry severe physical and emotional scars from their combat duty.It’s a sobering conclusion. Regrettably its impact is softenedby the movie’s other concerns. Aside from its obvious contempt for war, the film tackles smalltown mores, and attempts to affirm the dignity of the human spirit.The execise requires a virtuoso juggling act. However the movie makes no attempt at establishing a consistent moralstand.The Deer Hunter is content to show that war has changed the lives of virtually every character in the film. It is not prepared to state whether this experience is positive or negative— it would appear to be both according to the script.I’m not convinced the film can have it both ways and remain unscathed. In the closing moments, we see Michael, Steven and friends singing God Bless America. It ought to be the most powerful scene in themovie. Instead it proves confusing as it can be read for either irony or sincerity.The Deer Hunter was obviously a very personal project for director Michael Cimino. He developed the story from his own and friends’ war experiences. He can be justifiably proud of creating a film which is likely to expose some sensitive nerves.Cimino articulates his questions well. I sense he is much perplexed by the answers. Perhaps with time he will emerge with a clearer perspective.