Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 17, 2022 6:32 pm 
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YEAR OF THE DRAGON (Michael Cimino 1985). Watched because Criterion Channel is taking it off this month and I had never seen it. Spectacular, classic filmmaking from start to finish despite the racism, weak characterization, clichéd dialogue. It's the visuals and especially the big screen crowd scenes that sing. You can see why the French decorated Cimino and why Tarantino, who loved the final shootout sequence, made this one of his five favorite action films of its period. Dave Kehr's Chicago Reader short review:

Police captain Mickey Rourke finds himself reliving his service in Vietnam when he takes on a Chinatown heroin racketeer (John Lone). Michael Cimino’s film (1985) gives full rein to his personal tics—Southeast Asia, male bonding, mass social ritual (no less than three funeral scenes in this one)—as well as his usual weaknesses—lumpy narration, rhetorical inflation, wooden dialogue—while staying well within the standard outline of the violent urban thriller. Cimino’s talent is at least 50 percent hot air, but the part that is not—his superb feel for movement across the Panavision frame—seems especially valuable. Say what you will about his overstuffed, overdetailed images, they at least represent a notion of cinema, as opposed to the flat television aesthetic that dominates Hollywood, that no film lover can afford to ignore.

Yes, whatever the faults, this feels like glorious cinema. Yet Janet Maslin found much to object to in her 8/16/85 NY Times review and later, at greater leisure, Pauline Kael slowly tore it into little pieces in the 9/9/85 New Yorker . They were prejudiced, that was the blindness of the moment, and they missed the artistry later assessments (as of Days of Heaven) have uncovered. Cimino's depiction of NYC Chinese crime syndicates is superior to other such treatments, with a lot of dialogue in Chinese, for one thing. Even back then everyone agreed John Lone is impeccable as Mickey Rourke's sleek, steely young Triad boss adversary, Joey Tai. See the TRAILER for a lavish 2016 French "Ultra Collector "limited edition Blu-ray+DVD "coffret" (yours for 284.19 €) that includes a 208-page book .

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