Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Legendary filmmaker visits Suffolk

Academy Award-winner Michael Cimino appears reserved, self-assured, and full of knowledge. He is a man versed in everything from architecture and poetry, to literature, and of course, film.

He is, however, someone who does not cave in to public pressure, an individual who does not necessarily see eye-to-eye with newspaper scribes or media people in general.

Following the release of his sixth film, Heaven’s Gate, he did not give an interview to an American journalist for 10 years. This probably has to do with the controversial nature of his films, as well as his unique perspective on the medium as a whole.

Last week, the legendary filmmaker came to Suffolk’s Modern Theatre, and led an informative discussion with a small contingent.

After screening Year of the Dragon on February 4., Cimino was joined by acclaimed novelist Jim Carroll in a question-and-answer session with those in attendance. He was charismatic and funny, giving insight into the mind of a man who has created some of the most enduring films in the history of cinema.

“I believe in the cinema of people. Great literature is not about ideas, it’s about people,” he told a crowd of students, faculty, and alumni. “You never fail to be surprised by what comes out of your subconscious.”

Cimino spoke of his entrance into the industry, how he didn’t go to film school (he actually graduated from Yale with a degree in Painting), and how he goes about coming up with ideas for his various films.

“I don’t make movies because of ideas. I make movies about people,” he explained. “You’re always surprised by the journey you take with the characters.”

It was interesting to hear him explain a particularly important scene in The Deer Hunter. The scene in question, in which the main characters are being held hostage in a Vietnamese prison camp and forced to play a sadistic game of Russian roulette, has been analyzed in many different ways over the years.

According to Cimino, Steven Spielberg has often prodded him to find out how he packed so much suspense and emotion into that one, maddeningly terrifying scene.

“Russian roulette is a unique, dramatic device of waiting,” he said, explaining that the importance of that scene is the hour leading up to it, the expository stuff that gives his characters depth and real emotion.

While many in the audience were familiar with his work and interested in film studies, it was also a good opportunity to hear a man speak about pursuing goals, and how important it is to put genuine emotion in any line of work.

Three members of the communication department: Jason Carter, Dr. Monika Raesch and Sasha Lekic, have been doing a small cinema series where they bring in local documentary filmmakers to the school.

However, with the advent of the Modern Theatre, they were asked to expand this series, and make February a movie month, hoping to attract a “big whig.”

Lekic wrote personal letters to some erudite, older filmmakers, and luckily received word from Cimino’s representatives that he would love a chance to come to Suffolk. Although they did not speak with him until the day he showed up at the theatre, his presence was clearly appreciated.

“He’s done some things in Europe, you know, he appreciates their sensibilities,” said Carter, who serves as Director of the Media Lab. “So really, it was Sasha’s personal letter that at least got a phone call back from his [representative], and then it was a series of lengthy discussions, negotiations, to actually get him to come.”

Although the theatre was not bursting at the seams with people trying to get in, the crowd was still ample. This, however, is something they hope to change with events in the near future.

“I wish there was a bigger crowd. There were well over 100 tickets sold. They were free though, so whether it was the weather or not, what was the situation behind that,” said Carter. “Unfortunately, there could have been more people there. I think [Cimino] took that in stride. Luckily, it was a reasonably small, intimate event.”

Regardless of the volume of attendees, for those who got a chance to listen to Cimino speak, it was an event they won’t soon forget.

View Comments (2)
More to Discover

Comments (2)

All The Suffolk Journal Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • J

    Jason CarterFeb 11, 2011 at 1:14 am

    It really was a fantastic night for film lovers. I wish more students would take advantage of all of the great events and talks that happen at Suffolk. It’s not too late though. The Modern Theater is welcoming famed author Dennis Lehane on February 17th and Dr. Vlada Petric on the 24th with his amazing film “Wall of Memories”. Go to to see the whole line-up for Movie Month at the Modern.

Activate Search
Legendary filmmaker visits Suffolk