Heaven’s Gate


(out of 5)

Bleeding heart sentimentality has led many critics to hail this as a misunderstood masterpiece in recent years, but the truth is (and yes, I know better than anyone else) it’s a big, long, boring piece of crap. That’s the most professional and articulate way that I could possibly put it. One of the most notorious films ever made, more famous for being the biggest bomb of all time than for anything involving its story or cast, it concerns itself with the tragedy of the Johnson County Wars in 19th century Wyoming. Cattle barons conspire to murder over a hundred immigrant farmers in cold blood in an effort to take over their property, with university-educated lawman Kris Kristofferson standing in the middle of the feud to uphold decency and prevent the bloodbath that will occur. Isabelle Huppert shines as a brothel madam who loves both the upstanding Kristofferson as well as the morally tainted Christopher Walken, but neither this love triangle nor the political intricacies of the plot at hand reach anything more than a confusing muddle in Michael Cimino’s terrible screenplay. The film started with a two million dollar budget which escalated to an enormous forty million after weeks of delay, mostly attributed to Cimino’s painstaking desire for perfection. His efforts pay off visually, as the film is positively gorgeous, with authentic sets and costumes and staggeringly beautiful, Days Of Heaven-esque photography by Vilmos Zsigmond, but the four hour running time is ridiculous considering there’s only about ninety minutes worth of good story in it. History books consider Heaven’s Gate the reason that the great decade of seventies filmmaking, where directors called all the shots, was ended thanks to the debacle of Cimino’s production (it actually forced United Artists to sell to MGM), but the truth is it would have happened anyway: corporations were slowly taking over the studios in the early eighties and moviemaking would become all about the bottom dollar whether Cimino made this clumsy, dull film or not.

Partisan Productions

USA, 1980

Directed by

Screenplay by Michael Cimino

Cinematography by

Produced by

Music by

Production Design by

Costume Design by

Film Editing by , , ,

Academy Awards 1981

Cannes Film Festival 1981

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