Call for Proposals: The Films of Michael Cimino
This proposed edited collection on Michael Cimino will represent the first, full critical engagement with the work of this divisive figure: acclaimed and lionised with The Deer Hunter (1979 Oscars for Directing and, presented by John Wayne, Best Picture), dismissed and demonised with Heaven’s Gate, condemned for The Year of the Dragon, and marginalised and forgotten thereafter, only to be haltingly reappraised shortly before his death in 2016 (with tributes at the Venice and Locarno film festivals). The public and artistic perception of Cimino veered from saviour (and progressor) of New Hollywood, to maker of straight-to-video fare – from b-film potboilers (Desperate Hours) to the eccentric (The Sunchaser). This contestation found expression in the mid-1980s in two publications: producer Stephen Bach’s unprecedented, personalised attack on Cimino (the lengthy book “Final Cut: Dreams and Disaster in the Making of Heaven’s Gate”) and Michael Bliss’s joint critical biography of Martin Scorsese and Cimino.
Some saw Cimino as an unchecked egomaniac, fatal to studios and “director’s cinema” as it had emerged in the 1970s; as a rightist, racist, proto-Reaganite patriot, and apologist for the war waged against Vietnam. Others saw in Cimino the poet of the lives of the working classes, and the tragedies visited upon them in the American century; and, in the unsurpassed achievement of Heaven’s Gate, the unique creation of a counterfactual, progressive history of America at the dawn of the twentieth century, and its bloody routing. Further to recent writing (Charles Elton’s unofficial biography of 2023), Cimino emerges as possibly the only North American mainstream trans auteur of the last half century.
Themes for proposals could include, but certainly aren’t limited to:
Cimino’s early advertising work
Cimino’s work in the films of others (Silent Running, Magnum Force, The Rose, The Pope of Greenwich Village etc), and in other spheres (such as writing)
Alternative / definitive cuts, release / director’s cuts, of Cimino’s films, and their backstories
Production histories of Cimino films
Unmade Cimino film projects
Cimino as auteur, and his cultivation of a public persona
Cimino’s place in post-war American cinema
Cimino and (concepts of) history
Cimino’s, and collaborators’, aesthetics, sonics and narratives
Teams around Cimino and their authorial inputs
Cimino and New Hollywood
Cimino and European film-making (particularly for The Sicilian)
Cimino and legacies of the Western, the war film, the film noir, the gangster film
Feminist, Global Majority, and LGBTIQA+ readings and rereadings of Cimino’s work
Cimino and constructions / problematisations of masculinity
Cimino’s direction of stars; Cimino and Clint Eastwood
The demonisation of Cimino
Cimino and the Nixon and Reagan years
It is anticipated that the two central Cimino films – The Deer Hunter and Heaven’s Gate – will be covered by a number of approaches and chapters. Reappraisals of all other films are very welcome. There is certainly no intention to write a hagiography, and contributors are encouraged to revisit and embrace debates around Cimino’s work.
The edited collection is intended for the Edinburgh University Press “ReFocus: The American Directors” series (which appear in paperback and hardback). A provisional timeline will be a deadline for invited chapters in the second quarter of 2024, for publication in 2025 – to be confirmed. Please send proposed chapter abstracts (400-500 words in a Word document, with minimal formatting), along with a biographical note (and email address/es) in the same Word document, by 15 October 2023 to firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Benjamin Halligan is Director of the Doctoral College of the University of Wolverhampton. He has co-edited the following books: Mark E. Smith and The Fall: Art, Music and Politics; Reverberations: The Philosophy, Aesthetics and Politics of Noise; Resonances: Noise and Contemporary Music; The Music Documentary: Acid Rock to Electropop; The Arena Concert: Music, Media and Mass Entertainment; Stories We Could Tell: Putting Words to American Popular Music by David Sanjek; Politics of the Many: Contemporary Radical Thought and the Crisis of Agency; Diva: Feminism and Fierceness from Pop to Hip-Hop and Adult Themes: British Cinema and the X-Rating in the Long 1960s. He is author of Michael Reeves (2003), Desires for Reality: Radicalism and Revolution in Western European Film (2016) and Hotbeds of Licentiousness: The British Glamour Film and the Permissive Society (2022).