The Year of the Dragon: Michael Cimino's latest masterpiece

The Year of the Dragon: Michael Cimino's latest masterpiece

In 1985, Michael Cimino was a man down. Filmed to get back in the saddle, Year of the Dragon will be his last fight, his last masterpiece, the last nail in the coffin of New Hollywood. After that, curtain.

In a new interview offered as a bonus for the “collector” edition (print limited to 3000 copies, sumptuous visuals, etc.) of The Year of the Dragon, Michael Cimino quotes the boxer Rocky Marciano in one sentence: “It’s not the muscles that count, nor the power of your punches, but your ability to get up”. He knows what he's talking about – few filmmakers have bitten the dust like him.

Torpedoed at the dawn of the 1980s by the colossal failure of Heaven's Gate (which would soon enter the history books as the obituary of the New Hollywood), Cimino had gone in the blink of an eye from the status of Oscar-winning wonderboy to that of a dangerous plague victim. It will take five years to film again. But then there is no longer any question of pharaonic expenses, of getting lost in a maze of endless details.

The Year of the Dragon (the story of a Vietnam veteran cop who wants to clean up Chinatown) will be delivered on time to its producer Dino de Laurentiis. Cimino has traveled to the end of hell, closed the door to paradise; he is now in purgatory. This film is his act of contrition.

Michael Cimino: 'If you're too successful in Hollywood, they'll do anything to bring you down'

Suicidal Warrior

The other seventies demiurges are almost all there. Forced to rebuild their health commercially. Coppola turned Peggy Sue, Scorsese The Color of Money, Friedkin cachetonne on TV… The Year of the Dragon is therefore a work of its time. Obsessed with money, bling, hard drugs, neon-lit nightclubs, bad Asians in fancy suits and stupid happy endings. But if the decorum is 80's to death, the antihero Stanley White is a pure leftover from the 1970s.

A melancholy intellectual who spends his nights theorizing about the history of America and the Triads, an idealist clearly lost in the wrong decade. It's a self-portrait of the filmmaker as a suicidal warrior, of course. But above all the film should have represented a new beginning for him. Bad pick: it was another commercial failure.

Two years later, the horrible and opportunistic Sicilian demonstrated that Cimino had given up. The Year of the Dragon will have been his last (artistic) triumph, a heartbreaking and totally electrifying masterpiece. Ironically, the film's final line was dictated by the studio. Screenwriter Oliver Stone, who was about to turn Platoonhad written: “When the war drags on, you end up marrying the enemy.” We finally stuck a catch-all phrase in the mouth of Mickey Rourke (“I can’t be a good guy”), which weakened the point. Cimino fought, every second of this insane film proves it. But he – literally – did not have the last word.

Journey to the End of Hell: The Apogee of New Hollywood

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