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Old 02-12-2012, 10:53
Ted Cunterblast
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A film I had never seen, so picked up the new Criterion blu ray a few days back and watched it last night.


And I am not really sure what to make of it.



I can understand the fuss made about it, Cimino went to extraordinary lengths to make the film look realistic and authentic, he was a perfectionist and I guess there was a element of the 'kid in a candy store' about him, and probably too much faith and trust put in him by the producers, who maybe should have reigned him in a bit more.


What I liked about it, well obviously the sheer spectacle of it...Cimino didn't just build sets, he built whole western towns, railroads etc. You feel like you are actually living in a western town, not just watching a movie. Streets are dirty, crowded and teeming with life. The extras look suitably authentic, and the mix of accents with the influx of immigrants also sets it apart from the usual type of western.


Acting is generally very good, especially from Kristofferson, Walken, Bridges and Hurt. And the end sequence with the 'battle' is very good indeed.



However...I somehow could not connect with the characters and the storyline. Cimino seems to allow scenes to go on forever, and it does not help that dialogue is sometimes almost inaudible (surprisingly not improved for this restoration). Therefore it can be difficult to follow the motivations and actions of the characters.


The main thrust of the film is about the influx of European immigrants to America, and the resentment and treatment of them by the indigenous population...with some citizens and groups taking the law into their own hands and resorting to rape and murder. Kristoffersons character is at odds with this mentality, and eventually decides to take sides.


I was reminded of another 80's epic that I watched recently, Warren Beatty's Reds, which I found similarly hard-going.


But there is much to admire here, though not that much to actually enjoy given the bleak, downbeat nature of the film.
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Old 02-12-2012, 12:56
ironjade
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The ful version is nothing like as bad as people have made out. Its reputation is largely down the ludicrous shenanigans which went on during its making, resulting from the producers' grovelling to Michael Cimino and their subsequent lack of control, compounded by their attempts to regain it. Also not seeing a completed script in time to see just how much everything was going to cost.
A very detailed account can be found in the book "Final Cut".
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Old 02-12-2012, 13:44
Takae
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I actually liked it. Saw it on Channel 4 during the early 1990s when it was running one of its late-night film seasons. In this season it screened Ragtime, 1900 (in the same night!), The Duellists, Nicholas and Alexandra, Days of Heaven, The Leopard and a couple of European films.

I was already in that mode when I watched Heaven's Gate. Now I only have fragmented memories of the film itself, but I remember my response more. At times it tried my patience a little, but I persisted and enjoyed it along the way. Not in a way that I loved it, but in a way that I enjoyed experiencing it as a film experience. I'm not sure if that makes sense?

I don't think I would have enjoyed it if I watched it first time today or any of other times. I certainly never saw it again since that night. Not because I didn't enjoy it, but because I probably felt I didn't want to ruin the memory of that viewing experience.
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Old 02-12-2012, 15:11
Ted Cunterblast
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I actually liked it. Saw it on Channel 4 during the early 1990s when it was running one of its late-night film seasons. In this season it screened Ragtime, 1900 (in the same night!), The Duellists, Nicholas and Alexandra, Days of Heaven, The Leopard and a couple of European films.

I was already in that mode when I watched Heaven's Gate. Now I only have fragmented memories of the film itself, but I remember my response more. At times it tried my patience a little, but I persisted and enjoyed it along the way. Not in a way that I loved it, but in a way that I enjoyed experiencing it as a film experience. I'm not sure if that makes sense?

I don't think I would have enjoyed it if I watched it first time today or any of other times. I certainly never saw it again since that night. Not because I didn't enjoy it, but because I probably felt I didn't want to ruin the memory of that viewing experience.




Oddly enough I was reminded of both Ragtime and Days of Heaven when watching it.


Ragtime I think I have seen only once and have very vague memories of it. Maybe due for a reappraisal.


Days of Heaven I love, I got that on blu ray last year. It may be style over substance to a degree...but what style!


With Heavens Gate there was much to admire about it, as I have said. I just didn't connect with it emotionally.


I suppose you could also put Cotton Club into the same category of 80's historical epics.
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