Cimino: The Deer Hunter, Heaven’s Gate, and the Price of a Vision

Abrams. Mar. 2022. 352p. ISBN 9781419747113. $28. FILM
Intent on uncovering the truth behind the rumors, producer and novelist Elton tackles the controversial, mysterious, and enigmatic director Michael Cimino, who was notorious for his many lies: about his birthdate, his family history, even his height. His early work in commercials reflected his extraordinary eye for detail (an entire book was written about his Eastman Kodak commercial of 1967). His film career peaked with the brilliant The Deer Hunter, which overcame numerous challenges to win the Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture. Then came Heaven’s Gate—after Cimino spent 40 million dollars, six months of shooting, and a year of editing, the film became the “poster child for failure”; Cimino was blamed for bankrupting the studio and made only four more films. However, Elton provides evidence of a later critical reevaluation of both the film and Cimino. Elton examines Cimino’s troublesome personal life as well—his longstanding complicated relationship with his partner Joann Carelli, his dramatic changes of physical appearance, and his attempts to ultimately reconcile with the many people he had offended over the years. Elton masterfully maneuvers through the web of lies surrounding Cimino, providing riveting details and fascinating interviews with key players.
VERDICT A must for film aficionados. Fans of Cimino’s will be satisfied that he has been vindicated.
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