Heaven’s Gate • Michael Cimino • 1980

Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate (1980), is a notorious film, credited with the ruination of the United Artists production company. You can read about the how and why of this debacle in Final Cut (1985) by Steven Bach.

In its original version the film was way too long for a normal theatrical release. Various attempts were made to find an edit that didn’t compromise the complex narrative of the story too much…None of these edits has been entirely convincing yet. But eventually, people have begun to see that there was some good in the film.

One of the best things about HG is the cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond…he combines light and landscape brilliantly and creates a 19c (slow) paced dynamism through the action of people, horses, and steam trains…

The scene when the train of migrants arrives at the station is almost as good as the scene in Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) when Claudia Cardinale arrives at Flagstone…

The film is not a work of genius…but, I have seen much worse. At least you can see where the money went. There are a few magical images…A bit like David Lean’s Ryan’s Daughter (1970), the film needed a ruthless editor working alongside Cimino.

There’s also a terrific soundtrack by David Mansfield…and a roller-disco scene at the eponymous Heaven’s Gate dancehall…both on youtube.

Isabelle Hupert and Kris Kristofferson, and their supporting colleagues, were all amazing too.

Well worth watching.

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