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Michael Reynolds is a rich oncologist who has a $175,000 sports car, a multi-million dollar home, and a new boost in his career. Brandon 'Blue' Monroe is a dying patient who kidnaps ... See full summary »
In 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. Both men find themselves questioning their roles in the furious conflict between wealthy landowners and European immigrants attempting to build new lives on the American frontier, which culminates in a brutal pitched battle. Written by
Bernard Keane <BKeane2@email.dot.gov.au>
HEAVEN'S GATE will always be remembered for at least three things: destroying United Artists, wrecking director Michael Cimino's career, and ending the last golden age of Hollywood, when the directors could make the types of films they wanted to make. To this day we are still living through the effects from HEAVEN'S GATE. Although the film was made for only $36 million, back in 1980 that was a fortune. Many films since have lost more money, but this one wrecked a respected studio. There is no question as to where all the money went, for it is on the screen to see. Everything was carefully detailed exquisitely down the extras' clothing. An entire town was built in a remote area of Montana. The film opens with a graduation sequence that takes place at Harvard in 1870, which is nicely shot and choreographed, but is completely unnecessary. Many such scenes are scattered throughout, and the film is more than halfway over before the plot finally starts to move forward. The actors all play characters who are one-dimensional and/or irrelevant, especially the John Hurt character. Why Cimino needed so many extras to play the immigrants is unclear, because we never get to know any of them and they are so annoying when they gather together to plot strategies against the rich bad guys who want to kill them off. The editing is pretty bad, but that's to be expected because there really isn't much of a story here, just a series of vignettes. Vilmos Zsigmond's photography is good, but too often there is too much dust and smoke everywhere that obscures the characters and locations. Also, the colors in the film are all washed out; it looks like the filmstock was left out in sun. For example, in the middle of the roller-skating scene, the color simply vanishes, leaving only light brown and black! Granted, there are a few things in the film that I admire, like David Mansfield's score. Isabelle Huppert always looks sexy even without makeup. The battle scenes are pretty exciting, although I could swear that I saw one particular wagon blow up four times. The film has a rather odd denoument that takes place on board a ship, but everything else in this movie is pretty odd. Why the studio didn't bring in another writer or two to rewrite the script is a mystery because inside this mess there was a good movie trying to get out. It's a shame that Michael Cimino still hasn't recovered from this debacle. I sure hope he makes a comeback.
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