MOTW: Heaven’s Gate (1980)

Update May 2019: We changed the category from FFOTD to MOTW: Movie Of The Week

2014-05-14 08:20:41

Today’s Favorite Film of The Day (FFOTD) goes to Heaven’s Gate (1980), an American Western Frontier Epic by Michael Cimino. Rolling Stone writer Gavin Edwards summarized the film best:

A 1980 Western about an armed conflict in Wyoming between rich cattlemen and poor farmers, made for a then-astronomical $44 million, it not only destroyed the career of director Michael Cimino (a rising star on the strength of The Deer Hunter) — this marathon-length epic basically put studio United Artists out of business and ended the auteur-driven ’70s golden age of Hollywood.

Heaven’s Gate is a beautiful movie, with some of the best cinematography and beautiful sets in any movie ever. It should have at the very least won awards for art direction, cinematography, costumes.

I admit the pacing is not wonderful and it probably could have benefited from a second or third edit run-through, but poor Cimino didn’t have time because of the scheduled release date, and just barely made it through the rough edit we ended up getting in the theatrical release. In spite of the problems, the film is so beautiful to look at, with such a compelling story and characters, that we add it to our list of fave films.

Steven Soderbergh recently blogged about his own “Butcher’s Cut” edit of the film, which he did as a personal project. He managed to edit the film down from 219 minutes to 108 minutes – less than half!

I really enjoyed his cut of the film! The pacing is much better, but I miss some of the grandiose scenes.

Regardless, Soderbergh’s edit clearly shows that the movie could have been much better had Cimino trusted and allowed a more capable editor than himself to complete the film.

3 out of 5 stars, but 5 stars for visuals alone.

Michael Cimino belongs in the same Elite Club of Visionaries as Terrence Mallick. Saying that, I honestly think there is a 5 star version in there. If only visionary Michael Cimino was given another 3 months or so to complete a proper edit.