Friday, October 18, 2013

Heaven's Gate... 33 years later.

For those of you who've never heard of this movie, this might be interesting. Heaven's Gate was written and directed by Michael Cimino who had just won Best Picture and director for The Deerhunter, his 2nd movie. It was doomed from the beginning as Cimino had a budget of $11 million, a lot of money in that time. However, the budget began to get larger as Cimino spent huge amounts of money leading to a final budget of around $44 million.

Word got out about his excesses and critics were all too happy to trash Cimino and the movie. Word spread everywhere and when it finally came out it bombed, called the worst movie ever made. It destroyed Cimino's career and was the joke of every studio exec in town.

But I liked it.

In fact I really liked it, even the short version. It was a good movie that was killed by critics and some of the audience. That's why I found the 2012 version shown in the Venice Film festival on the MGM channel. In the past few years critics changed their minds about the movie and called it a "modern masterpiece" and "one of the greatest injustices of cinematic history."

The new version is almost 4 hours long and takes some endurance to watch, I took two separate evenings to see it. And it still holds up as a great movie. 

Heaven's Gate (the name of a saloon in the movie) was based on a true story in Wyoming around 1892 where rich ranchers decided to make a list of rustlers and anyone else who were in their way. The list gave names that were to be shot or hung.

One of the greatest assets of the movie was Vilmos Zsigmond, one of a handful of European cameramen who came to Hollywood in the mid 70's. His filming was quite incredible and gave the movie a classic feel. 

Another thing I noticed was that there wasn't any special effects, no CGI. The magnificent mountains around Glacier National Park were real and the battles were real. That realness seems to be lost now with movies where actors go into a room and make space movies (I did like Gravity, by the way) but the earth in the movie wasn't real.

There's something about reality, it feels different, it looks different and sadly it's being substituted for 1's and O's (what digital images are for those who don't know).

The film, ultimately, is relative to today, the big guys walking over the small guys. It's certainly the theme of many westerns with Shane being the best one. And the theme seems to resonate to 2013, having witnessed the recent politics going on.

Anyways, have a look at Heaven's Gate, it takes a little more time than a Youtube video but is far more rewarding. You can probably find it on the MGM channel or netflix.

And as for Cimino, well, I hear he hangs around Duke's on Sunset in the morning.