Heaven’s Gate (Michael Cimino, 1980)


(John Welles) #1

Heaven’s Gate (Director: Michael Cimino/1980)

A by-word for years for excess and directorial indulgence, in recent years and in particular after Cimino’s re-envisioning was unveiled at the Venice Film Festival in 2012, critics seem to be moving towards a re-evaluation of the film, that, if stopping short of the tag of a misunderstood masterpiece, is a lot more positive than the venomous reviews it received when it first opened. Controversial, though, it still remains and is seen as the final nail in the coffin of the New Hollywood movement of the seventies. Is this film great, bad or somewhere in between?

I haven’t seen the film yet, but from the discussions here recently have interested me. Which is the best version to get? The old MGM 219 minute release (specifically this one on Amazonhttp://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0792843584/ref=ox_sc_sfl_title_1?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=A9O2T7U1LEG8A) is in Vilmos Zsigmond’s intended colour tone, but the disc isn’t great quality and appears to be cropped on the sides. The Criterion Blu-ray is apparently fantastic quality and represents Cimino’s final vision of the film (which means lost 2 - 3 minutes), but the colour tone has been completely changed. Which one, as a first time viewer, should I buy?


(Stanton) #2

As a start the MGM does it. The “stunningness” of the images is visible.

But if money is no problem the Criterion will look much better on the shelf, and will be worth the money if one likes the film anyway.


(Mickey13) #3

I’ve read somewhere recently, that Cimino’s final version of the movie lasted over 5 hours but it was shortened due to financial problems (besides too long for a commercial viewing). I haven’t seen the cut version, but it must have been a failure indeed, as the long version still feels a bit like a mess to me. But just like Stanton says - it’s visually delightful and decidedly worth a look, not only to know why United Artists bankrupted. I think you should download it first before buying a DVD though.


(scherpschutter) #4

I guess this 5 hours version was a rough cut, it was never shown theatrically (see for a link to my article):

http://forum.spaghetti-western.net/index.php/topic,3749.0.html


(John Welles) #5

It could also be like the much-pirated Apocalypse Now workprint or the officially released Blade Runner workprint in that it wasn’t the director’s refined vision.


(Stanton) #6

Maybe only a rough cut, but I assume the 5 hours is the version Cimino would have made if he could have cut the film without any commercial pressure, without caring how long one film was allowed to be for a theatrical showing.

Leone’s preferred version of OUTA was about 50 min longer then what he was allowed to release. Tarantino released Kill Bill in 2 parts to keep the intended length.

I’m pretty sure the 219 min version was a compromise for Cimino.


(Mickey13) #7

[quote=“scherpschutter, post:4, topic:3155”]I guess this 5 hours version was a rough cut, it was never shown theatrically (see for a link to my article):

http://forum.spaghetti-western.net/index.php/topic,3749.0.html[/quote]
Well, I know about it from this text:

Cimino was given complete freedom and pushed the film far over budget. He shot over 220 hours of film (1.3 million feet!) and production fell way behind as he sometimes demanded up to 50 takes of individual scenes. Then during post-production, Cimino changed the lock to the editing room, prohibiting studio executives from seeing the film until he completed the editing. Finally, after months of delays, last-minute changes, and cost overruns, Cimino delivered a version which ran 325 minutes (over 5 hours!), but studio executives forced him to edit the film to 219 minutes (still nearly 4 hours long). Cimino's obsessive and overbearing behavior destroyed his burgeoning reputation as a director.

Source:
http://oldschool.tblog.com/post/1970115361

If Cimino was given such a great artistic freedom, I think it could have been his ultimate version, but he was forced to shorten it. Anyway I’d like to view this long version - it could be better (much more depth) and not so uneven. Anyway I liked it and I feel sorry for Cimino. United Artists should have known that it was very risky to trust an artist and he was seemingly too self-confident.

[quote=“Stanton, post:6, topic:3155”]Maybe only a rough cut, but I assume the 5 hours is the version Cimino would have made if he could have cut the film without any commercial pressure, without caring how long one film was allowed to be for a theatrical showing.

Leone’s preferred version of OUTA was about 50 min longer then what he was allowed to release. Tarantino released Kill Bill in 2 parts to keep the intended length.

I’m pretty sure the 219 min version was a compromise for Cimino.[/quote]
Precisely.


(Mickey13) #8

And thanks for the review, scherpschutter. Would you be so kind to add a review of Taxi Driver as well? (You’ve apparently written one recently)
I’d love to read it in English, I adore Taxi Driver, actually it’s in my Top 15 of my all time favs.


(Mickey13) #9

And here is a proof that Cimino does not consider 216-minute or 219-minute cut to be his last cut:

Notwithstanding the wide availability of the 219-minute premiere version of Heaven's Gate and its frequent labeling as "uncut" or the "director's cut," "Cimino [has] insisted that the so-called original version did not fully correspond to his intentions, [and] that he was under pressure to bring it out for the predetermined date and did not consider [the film] ready," making even the 219-minute version essentially an unfinished film.

Source:

(Versions)

Let’s be optimists and hope that an uncut 5-hour version will be released soon. :slight_smile:


(ENNIOO) #10

Suppose I could watch a 5 hour version over a few days :smiley:


(ION BRITTON) #11

I watched the 219 min version non-stop despite some of its admittedly overlong scenes, so for me a 5 h version would be more than welcome in any case. I love this film and I think its great moments are up there with the best moments of the genre regardless of decade and historical accuracy aside. Great review there, scherp, as always.


(Mickey13) #12

I enjoyed it as well very much (why the hell did Vincent Canby write such a negative review - it is beyond my comprehension). It’s uneven, but I guess 5-hour version is likely to be masterful.