Sunday, August 12, 2012

Michael Cimino and Heaven's Gate are back?

Michael Cimino will receive the Persol award at the Venice film festival at the end of the month. The award will precede a screening of a restored print of Heavens' Gate.

Okay, maybe I need to see it again. Maybe it's better than I remember. Maybe the 219 minute version is better than the 149 minute version that I and most people saw when it was released in 1980.

Do you think?

The film was a disaster. It sank its studio, United Artists and destroyed the career and reputation of Cimino who had so wowed us with the brilliant Deer Hunter.

Heaven's Gate was beautiful to look at and the music was wonderful to listen to. Individual scenes could have great texture and feel but taken as a whole it didn't work; there was no cohesiveness nor was there any momentum. What pace there was was languid at best so that at either 219 minutes or 149 minutes it was interminable.

The 219 minute version, that's nearly 3 hours and forty minutes, was the premiere version which only played for one week in New York City. It was shorter than the 'Director's Cut' that Cimino had proposed which was over five hours long. The studio pulled the premiere version and replaced it with the 149 minute version - a speedy 2 hours and 29 minutes. That is the version I saw in LA when it opened there. The 219 minute version is what is available on DVD.

The Deer Hunter was so powerful and evocative. Great story-telling, well and appropriately paced, with the kind of texture that that made you feel you were in the jungles of Vietnam or a Pennsylvania steel town. That is what contributed to the great disappointment I felt when I saw Heaven's Gate. My expectations were so high. Nonetheless even without those expectations the film was disappointing.

There have been innumerable theories as to why the picture went so wrong. I don't know, it undoubtedly was many things including a director to whom no one would say no. Not only was the film's running time too long it was it was way over schedule and way over budget. It cost $44 Million and only recouped $3 Million in its initial release.

Perhaps I should see it again.....I don't know.

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