A breathtaking depiction of the promise and perils of America’s western expansion, Heaven’s Gate is among Hollywood’s most ambitious and unorthodox epics. When a Harvard graduate relocates to Wyoming as a federal marshal, he learns of a plot to kill the area’s European settlers for their land.
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The film that became superfluous with over indulgence and almost brought down a studio, and auteur studio cinema, plays now as a misunderstood and neglected masterpiece. One can forgive the leaden acting and under scripting for the shear brilliance of the technical filmmaking. Zsigmond's cinematography is breathtaking as is the attention to detail in all things. Cimino's best.
It didn't deserve its fate, but nothing can magick such leaden line-readings (and leaden lines) into a lost masterpiece. Cimino here cannot convincingly evoke the drama, or comedy, or romance, or vivid characters this Fordian epic aspires to. But ask him to film a plume of smoke, or a landscape, or a dance, or a killing, and you're in heaven. Drop him into the silent era, and he may have been one of the greats.
Top Ten countdown – #1 "It's getting dangerous to be poor in this country." The USA's national epic; its own internal heart of darkness. Cimino's obsessively shot and detailed western offers a somber exploration of the ideology of violence that Lady Columbia marched into the West. Unleashing the full potential of film formalism to create a profound melancholic indictment of the failures of "God's chosen nation."
Cult movie one has to see once in his life. Incredible how Michael Cimino's left-wing ideas fit this unglorious episode of American history. When I see now the walls recently built along the US southern borders, I cannot but sadly smile; the immigrants of yesterday have become the landlords of today. I understand why Heaven's Gate was a lackluster. Recommended.
Magnificent. Just be sure to see the full 3 hour, 48 minute version, not one of the chopped-up butchered cuts. The distributors who butchered this film, not Cimino, are responsible for the ruination of the venerable film company started by Griffith, Chaplin, Pickford and Fairbanks.
A modernist masterpiece, in which nothing is ever given but instead falls into place upon inspection. A film of beautiful, humble moments. Nate's mannishly literal "wallpaper," the dances, the epic ride to battle undone by a family drowning on the way. And yet it is clearly ordered, not only by Cimino's obsessive direction but in the same mirroring symmetry that defined THE DEER HUNTER's narrative movement.
A victim of overexpectation and over-budget, "Heaven's Gate" is a case study in the calamity that can ensue when a young director is given a free hand to make a follow-up to a huge hit. It's never shed its reputation of being the turkey that almost wrecked UA, but to me it has the most beautiful photography in any film of its era, and it stands up as a devastating indictment of the perversion of justice in the U.S.
"Heaven's Gate" is neither a major catastrophe nor an underappreciated classic, but that more slippery, shimmering, and ultimately frustrating thing — a noble failure. - Matt Brennan, indiewire
After enduring the director's cut on blu-ray from Criterion, that quote sums up my feelings on Cimino's epic.