The failure of the film is that, for all its cinematographic magnificence and titanic scope, it never really coalesces. The films is not particularly memorable or engaging. Too little time was spent on character development. Worth watching for the cinematography and occasional moments of beauty.
Clearly influenced by success of "The Deer Hunter", Cimino is occupied with similar topics in similar narrative, but with twice the sentimentality and grandeur, "Heaven's Gate" turns out twice as unconvincing. Beautiful film to experience, whilst believing none of it! With every frame on the verge of life and death, it lost all sense of spontaneous, human side we are supposed to identify with, or sympathize at least.
Helped and hindered by its sprawling length; a sort of Stockholm syndrome begins to set in at the halfway mark. In terms of atmosphere and authenticity, the film is sublime, and Cimino's slavish devotion shows. Shot almost exclusively in the cool blue movie "magic hour" through a veil of Fuller's Earth Zsigmond blasted into the air with enormous fans, it really is a period photo come to life.
35mm, complete version. What makes me retract a little? The exhibitionism of Zsigmond's cinematography, full of astonishing effects or the character of Hurt doing Shakespeare in the middle of a space created for an epic feat. But it's certainly a rare film in its time, and much more at the present one, for its cinematic dimension bigger than art, for the complexity of mass movements, choreographed by a master camera.
Ce film est vraiment un chef d'oeuvre. Il est tellement ambitieux que c'est parfois dur à regarder. Le film a une ampleur et une mélancolie terrible: tout part en fumée et ce feu est absolument magnifique. Passer de paysages magnifiques, où les personnages sont sans cesse en épopée, à des situations politiques et intimes est difficile. J'ai beaucoup de mal avec la durée. Le personnage d'Ella est grandiose!
Heaven's Gate is a failure; let's be clear about that. But it is such a grand one that one can't be wowed by it, if one allows oneself to be. The story is thin and the characters thinner; but it's the film making, the film equalent of literarity; the cinematography, editing and pacing made me if not interested, it kept me with the film. It's too long, too convoluted and messy. But that's part of why it's great.
The movie's production, criticism, and relevance can be summed up in my watching this with my Dad, an armchair Western film savant: we finish the dual speeches between Cotten and Hurt, laying out the schizophrenic moralism and issues of integrity underlying the period's American Expansion and responsibility inherent in White Man's Burden, then he pauses the movie. "I did not understand a word of what they just said."
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.
I think it's about to get overrated since it used to be so underrated. The plot should be worked more with. Stunning cinematography. Favourite scene: When Huppert makes pie for Kristofferson. Somewhere between a 3 and 4, watching a great 35mm print probably made it a 4.
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.