Heaven's Gate

Heaven's Gate

3.8 5
Director: Michael Cimino

Cast: Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken, Isabelle Huppert

     
 

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A notorious artistic and financial failure, Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate was blamed for critically wounding the movie Western and definitively ushering out the 1970s Hollywood New Wave of young, brash, independent filmmakers. Taking a revisionist, post-Vietnam view of American imperialism, Cimino used the historical Johnson County War incident in Wyoming toSee more details below

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Overview

A notorious artistic and financial failure, Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate was blamed for critically wounding the movie Western and definitively ushering out the 1970s Hollywood New Wave of young, brash, independent filmmakers. Taking a revisionist, post-Vietnam view of American imperialism, Cimino used the historical Johnson County War incident in Wyoming to create an impressionistic tapestry of Western conflict between poor immigrant settlers and rich cattle barons led by Canton (Sam Waterston) and his hired gun Nate Champion (Christopher Walken). Attempting to mediate is idealistic Harvard graduate and county marshal Averill (Kris Kristofferson), who is both Nate's friend and his romantic rival for the affections of Ella Watson (Isabelle Huppert). However, war erupts, at great cost to all involved. Flush from his success with the Oscar-winning The Deer Hunter (1978), Cimino demanded creative control, and his insistence on shooting on location and building historically accurate sets and props multiplied the film's original budget to a then-astronomical $36 million. When United Artists premiered the original 219-minute version (sight unseen), they discovered that Cimino had produced an elliptical epic, compounding the box-office difficulties of making a Western without any major stars. Critics howled about Cimino's incomprehensible self-indulgence, and United Artists pulled the film after several days. Re-released five months later, 70 minutes shorter, Heaven's Gate bombed again, and MGM bought out the financially crippled United Artists. The ailing Western genre virtually vanished during the 1980s, Cimino's career never recovered, and Hollywood studios had had enough of bankrolling financially risky ventures by "auteur" directors. Heaven's Gate's reputation recovered somewhat after its video release, as it garnered praise from some viewers for such visually remarkable sequences as the Harvard dance and the final battle, as well as for David Mansfield's haunting score. Steven Bach's book Final Cut provides a full production history.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide
The dire financial and professional consequences Heaven's Gate visited upon its director and studio can't be disputed, but the virtues of the film itself remain more open to debate. Though unwieldy, unsatisfying, and self-indulgent to a fault -- Michael Cimino appears uncomfortable shooting a scene with fewer than fifty extras -- its excesses also bring quite a bit to admire. But first the flaws: Heaven's Gate plays like an ultra-ambitious first novel in desperate need of an editor. Though it prominently features a love triangle between Kris Kristoferson, Christopher Walken, and Isabelle Huppert, for instance, it not only takes over 90 minutes to establish this relationship, it takes that long to establish that all three characters know each other. By that point, Cimino has already made clear that muscular storytelling will not be a priority, and while that approach suited Thunderbolt and Lightfoot and The Deer Hunter just fine, it fails him here. What's more, for a film about the struggle of the common man against a system of capitalist oppression, it rather hypocritically reduces its poor immigrant farmers into an undifferentiated mass. But for those willing to stick with the 219 minute film (the version to which this review refers and the one most widely available on video and at revival screenings) through those flaws, Heaven's Gate offers considerable rewards. If nothing else, it's a masterful work of cinematography from first shot to last, thanks to the work of Vilmos Zsigmond. More directly to Cimino's credit as a director, he uses Zsigmond's imagery to convey his grandiose themes about the West and America in a way his screenplay only suggests. Where Heaven's Gate fails as a film, it sometimes works as a symbolic pageant, and while that may not be enough to redeem it entirely, it certainly rescues it from charges of artistic disaster.

Product Details

Release Date:
11/20/2012
UPC:
0715515101110
Original Release:
1981
Rating:
R
Source:
Criterion
Region Code:
A
Presentation:
[Wide Screen]
Sound:
[DTS 5.1-Channel Surround Sound]
Time:
3:36:00
Sales rank:
5,429

Special Features

Director-approved two-disc Blu-ray special edition features:; Disc one: ; New, restored transfer of part I of director Michael Cimino's cut of the film, supervised by Cimino; New restoration of the 5.1 surround soundtrack, supervised by Cimino and presented in DTS-HD master audio; ; Disc two:; New illustrated audio interview with Cimino and producer Joann Carelli; New interviews with actor Kris Kristofferson, soundtrack arranger and performer David Mansfield, and second assistant director Michael Stevenson; Restoration demonstration; Teaser and TV spot; ; Plus:; A booklet featuring an essay by critic and programmer Guilia D'Agnolo Vallan and a 1980 interview with Cimino

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Kris Kristofferson Marshal James Averill
Christopher Walken Nathan D. Champion
Isabelle Huppert Ella Watson
Sam Waterston Frank Canton
Brad Dourif Mr. Eggleston
John Hurt Billy Irvine
Jeff Bridges John H. Bridges
Joseph Cotten The Reverend Doctor
Rosie Vela Beautiful Girl
Ronnie Hawkins Wolcott
Geoffrey Lewis Trapper
Jack Blessing Actor
Norton Buffalo Actor
Willem Dafoe Actor
Waldemar Kalinowski Photographer
Mady Kaplan Actor
Caroline Kava Actor
Allen Keller Actor
Anna Levine Actor
Kevin McClarnon Actor
Elizabeth McGovern Actor
Gordana Rashovich Actor
Mickey Rourke Actor
Stefan Scherby Large Man
Jerry Sullivan Actor
Gabriel Walsh Actor
Nicholas Woodeson Small Man
Mary Catherine Wright Nell
Kai Wulff Actor
Marat Yusim Actor
Jarleth Conroy Actor
Robin Bartlett Mrs. Lezak
Paul Koslo Mayor
Richard Masur Cully
Tom Noonan Jake
Terry O'Quinn Capt. Minardi
Judi Trott Actor
T-Bone Burnett Member of the Heaven's Gate Band
Stephen Bruton Member of the Heaven's Gate Band

Technical Credits
Michael Cimino Director,Screenwriter
Richard W. Adams Sound Editor
Joann Carelli Producer
Brian Cook Asst. Director
Herbert Spencer Deverill Art Director
Eleanor Fazan Choreography
Maurice Fowler Art Director
Lisa Fruchtman Editor
Jerry Greenberg Editor
Michael Grillo Asst. Director
J. Allen Highfill Costumes/Costume Designer
Tambi Larsen Art Director
David Mansfield Score Composer
Charles Okun Producer
Peter Price Production Manager
William H. Reynolds Editor
Tom Rolf Editor
Winston Ryder Sound Editor
Vilmos Zsigmond Cinematographer

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