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Heaven's Gate

Drama, Western
3h 39m
Michael Cimino's bleak anti-western based on events in 1890s Wyoming. Sheriff James Averill attempts to protect immigrant farmers from wealthy cattle interests, and also clashes with a hired gun, Nathan Champion, over the woman they both love (imdb)
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This is not a "bad" film. It is a horribly miscalculated one. Cimino thinks his characters are multi-dimensional enough to flesh out a 3 hour long movie. He is wrong. Cimino thinks that his movie can not stand one more minute, nay, SECOND of editing. He is wrong. He is wrong about a lot of things. There IS an interesting story buried in here, and some of his compositions are genius (sheet with the bullet hole, for one) but the director is too in love with his vision to bother with telling it.
The film's entire production history, criticism, and historical relevance can be summed up in my watching Criterion's edition with my Dad: himself an armchair Western cinema savant, we finish the dual speeches between Joseph Cotten and John Hurt, laying out the schizophrenic moralism and issues of integrity underlying the period's American Expansion and the responsibility inherent in White Man's Burden, then he pauses the movie. "I did not understand a word of what they just said."
I spent almost 4 hours with these people and I can't tell you a single name but I can tell you the exact time stamp a bub appeared. Cimino lets every single scene breathe until it's way to close and going down your neck and starts rubbing your shoulders.
There's nothing wrong with epics or sepia tones. But there is something overblown and self-indulgent about this movie. It's desperately in need of an anyone-but-the-director's cut. It's all beautifully shot and certain scenes, especially the dances, are fine inclusions even if they don't do much to support the story. But a lot of it is just filler. Still, it's not an awful movie, and the story itself is a reasonably compelling anti-Western, exploring ugly episodes from our nation's history.
Even the cult that took its name from this movie was around for a shorter time than this. Convoluted and doesn't know what it's doing half the time. It's bloated as hell, but for some reason i'm in awe of it. Its mammoth presentation was unforgettable, contrasting the characters themselves who were forgettable. A true epic, of which its failures cripple it from being a true masterpiece of the ages.
Avg Percentile 52.00% from 445 total ratings


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Submitted bywinbranwinbran on May 04, 2006
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