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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cimino's masterpiece finally finds its audience
Let me start by saying that Heaven's Gate is a marvellous film, and in no way deserving of the critical mauling it got on its release. Director Michael Cimino was criticised for bloating the Johnson County War, a relatively minor albeit brutal footnote in American history, into a three-hour-plus behemoth, but to do so is to miss what Cimino was trying to achieve. The film...
Published 12 months ago by Anorakus

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61 of 72 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cimino's epic is a tough movie to judge...
After the critical and financial success of Oscar darling The Deer Hunter, Michael Cimino had Hollywood, the majority of the media and more importantly, United Artists' executives at his feet. Given the budget of his choice, he decided to follow up his masterpiece with a script that he had been hoping to produce since his humble beginnings as a Clint Eastwood...
Published on 6 Aug 2004 by Luisito Joaquín González


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent film as well as a piece of cinema history, 5 Jun 2014
By 
Charles Charalambous (Brussels, Belgium) - See all my reviews
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Having always been a fan and firm defender of this film, I felt I should add my recommendation for the restored 2-disc DVD edition, which I am proud to own.

Definitely worth a view, even by those who aren't aware of the film's history or those who don't like westerns. Looks great, the acting's great, and the script gives plenty of food for thought - trust me, the length and pace is not an issue. Also, the informative extras add another layer of awareness of the film's importance.

The only definite negative for me (and the reason why I can only give it 4 stars), is the sound quality. I don't know what happened in post-production, but the dialogue is really buried in the mix. Having to turn up the volume for the dialogue and then turn it down again for everything else can quickly become a tiresome distraction.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unique movie (You have been warned), 5 Mar 2010
Some people might like this movie for its anti-western and realistic view of the Far West. Others might just hate or won't stand its long sequences, its 220 minutes (while Once upon a time in America by Sergio Leone is 229 minutes, and The lord of the Rings 683 minutes), or the truthful exposition of the internal conflicts between the immigrants settlers and the americans. But if you take the time to shut yourself from the press' critics, take an unbiased attitude, and let yourself get engulf by this movie, you will live an adventure; whether or not you will hate it, or love it like I did.

You have been warned. And if you can't stand watching the whole movie in one ride, try watching it like a novel; take a break from time to time.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, ambitious, flawed, 19 Mar 2013
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There's more written about the making of Heaven's Gate and what it was eventually blamed for causing in Hollywood than the actual film itself. I watched this after reading Steven Bach's book 'Final Cut' and it's a terrific companion piece to this, the full 3hr 39min cut of the film.

The positives are the film looks achingly beautiful. The Montana landscapes Cimino and cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond capture are stunning. And the interiors and crowd scenes look like period paintings. The clean up by Criterion (under the supervision of Cimino) reveals verdant greens and bold blues. The cleaned up sound - including David Mansfield's wonderful score - works for the most part, but it does expose one of the films flaws. The dialogue is often hard to follow, lost in a mix of background noise. And when it is clear it's stilted, lacking impact. Apart from a standout scene in the film's Harvard prologue, the dialogue for most for most of the film is undramatic, dull even. This makes it hard to care for the main characters. And in a film this size there's surprisingly few, only three of them. So it's more noticeable that there's no one person to root for.

Another main flaw is the lack of narrative or dramatic drive in the film. We know from the first hour that the hired killers are due to arrive in Johnston County, and that they have a kill list of 125 names. But not much else actually happens before the climactic battle. They killers turn up, they kill. The settlers talk a lot, then some of them get killed. The lack of any real dramatic tension only contributes to the overall sense of nihilism that runs through the picture. As if watching a three hour countdown to an inevitable massacre, only to then have a possible victory stolen as the US Cavalry arrive to 'save' the killers. The antagonist gets killed in what looks like an afterthought, before a vague, almost surreal prologue ends the move.

Still, it's visionary, bold film-making. But Cimino's greatest strengths - beautiful visuals and compositions - are fatally wounded by his greatest weakness - poorly drawn characters in too slight a story.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A memorable but flawed masterpiece., 17 Jun 2011
By 
Roger Boon (Llandudno,Wales,UK) - See all my reviews
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I only saw this film once a quarter of a century ago, yet it's impact has never left me and I can still remember even now my reactions to it.I was mesmerised by the breadth and the sheer beauty of so much of the photography. I was astounded that an American studio could produce such a European film with it's slow pace and its unfocused plot. The lack of any strong characters felt like a flaw but I raged at the completely unnecessary ending on the yacht which seemed as though it was bolted on to give some kind of plot cohesion and which was entirely at odds with the style of the rest of the picture.It was also refreshing to see a western which made no pretence about the brutality and exploitation that so often was the unfortunate detritus of the American Dream.The western scenes and sets also had an authenticity which was entirely new to me and which prefigured the recent Deadwood series.The film was massively cut for the American audience and its my very real wish that in these days of Director's Cuts that Michael Cimino is given the opportunity of a fresh edit in the light of reflection - a cut which could turn this ill fated movie into the masterpiece it had the potential to become
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A time and a place..., 11 Nov 2008
No, it NOT accurate from a historical perspective but I don't believe it was ever the intention to be a history lesson. What it appears to be, and succeeds in doing completely, is a re-creation of a time, a place and a mood. In that respect it is almost flawless. This is a portal to a time gone by. The production design, photography and atmosphere are stunning. It the nearest you will ever get to being in the 19th century West. Without this there would be no Deadwoood. An achievement that many do not understand or appreciate. Stunning. But it. Rent it. See it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars three & a half hours of class., 14 July 2014
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This review is from: Heaven's Gate Restored Edition 2 Discs [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
great movie, this version justifies purchasing a BDplayer, visuals are outstanding, slow start to establish characters ,but alwqys interesting , moving to a brilliant climax. Not quite historically perfect, but does not detract from entertainment..
Christopher Walkden steals movie as usual, fine understated actor, if enjoying this & if not seen, watch Macabe & Mrs Miller, same tremendous camera work...
regards chrisb
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61 of 72 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cimino's epic is a tough movie to judge..., 6 Aug 2004
After the critical and financial success of Oscar darling The Deer Hunter, Michael Cimino had Hollywood, the majority of the media and more importantly, United Artists' executives at his feet. Given the budget of his choice, he decided to follow up his masterpiece with a script that he had been hoping to produce since his humble beginnings as a Clint Eastwood protégé. Having already brought his inimitably masterful vision to the (then) fresh debate of the Vietnam War, the director chose to adapt yet another periodic American conflict: the infamous battle of Johnson County. As I'm sure you're well aware, the result was perhaps the most monumental flop of cinema history, which immediately relieved the young auteur of his promising career as a master filmmaker and sunk an entire studio without a trace. This inevitably changed Hollywood forever. Gone were the days of the ambitious auteur and the daring studio executives with something to prove, and eventually the eighties opened up an extreme user friendly environment where budgets would be handed out with extreme caution and prejudice to those with artistic tendencies.
Looking back over a quarter of a century later, it's surprising how well The Deer Hunter has retained its composure. It remains a touching portrayal of human companionship, emotion and loyalty that's packed with brash political overtones that raise questions even today. The merits of his magnum opus and my love of the Western genre led me to finally view Heaven's Gate and see for myself if it was in fact the turkey that its grim reputation has allowed it to be remembered as. The gratification of viewing a gun totting cowboy movie from the virtuoso imagination of The Deer Hunter's creator was indeed an allurement in itself. I strongly hoped that Cimino had suffered only because after the bloated excess of such over-budgeted overabundances as Apocalypse Now, the media had decided to target him for career annihilation as they have with countless others in the past.
On return to Casper Wyoming, Jim Averill (Kris Kristofferson) learns from his drunken friend Billy Irvine (John Hurt) that the association have written up a death list to rid the county of what they see as thieving and money-hungry immigrants. His hooker with a heart of gold sweetheart Ella (Isabelle Huppert) is on the list, which forces him to beg that she leaves the state to head West with him away from the animosity. However Ella is also involved in a relationship with a hired gun, Nate Champion (Christopher Walken), who has accepted the task of assassinating those that the association has targeted at the price of $50 dollars a head. Although the coupling is initially professional, emotions become confused when Nate proposes that Ella marries him. As the rivalry between the rich and poor worsens, the immigrant community realise that to survive they have to adopt the policies of their aggressors, which results in a bloody battle for survival and independence.
Upon viewing Heaven's Gate, one of the immediate things that you notice is how damn beautiful the movie actually is. Vilmos Zsigmond's lush cinematography is a sight to behold and frame by frame the runtime looks like a collection of stunning and realistically gritty portraits strung together artistically for audience appreciation. Cimino manages to handle scenes with a huge abundance of activity like the master craftsman that he truly is. Although many sequences, like the sprawling dance at the beginning or the bizarre roller skating 'disco' are predominantly pointless, his dedication, flare for authenticy and overall guidance remain highly textured and visually astounding throughout. Averill's locomotive arrival is (arguably) unintentionally reminiscent of Jill's mesmerising landing from C'era una volta il West. The streets bustle with activity as passers by go about their everyday business, and the director does well to control an amazing number of accurately costumed extras, without taking the emphasis away from the plot's focal points. It's interesting to see a pre-CGI outing that has such strong and realistic art direction and set locations that weren't simply created over a blue or green screen. In fact, Heaven's Gate puts Lord of the Rings and Troy to shame with its stark realism and dedication to historical accuracy.
However, brief flashes of genius cannot hide the film's only too numerous flaws. Kris Kristofferson gives a lifeless lead performance and even master actors to the class of Jeff Bridges and a bizarrely miss-cast Brad Douriff seem to struggle aimlessly to find a relevant plot point to chew upon. John Hurt adds swagger to a tissue paper thin persona, but overall his appearance is as redundantly pointless as his woefully miss-judged exit. A young and almost unrecognisably handsome Christopher Walken ends up carrying the majority of the film on his shoulders, and even a pre-famed Mickey Rourke pops up briefly only to die tragically moments later. The time dedicated to the uninteresting romance between the three leads severely jeopardised the entire motivation of the story, and one is left wondering whether the whole thing could have been cut down to perhaps 15% of the runtime instead of the long winded 75. The heavy handed editing is in fact the feature's biggest downfall. With Cimino in full control, his obsession with excess is no less than devastating, and five hours and twenty two minutes is not a movie by any length of chalk; it's a bloated mini-series.
All in all, Heaven's Gate is a tough title to judge. At times beautiful and compelling and in others pointless and lengthy, over the years it has gained as many fans as it has critics for its discrepancies in reviews and acclaim. The Deer Hunter may have had scenes that just acted as wallpaper without moving the plot anywhere, but it was saved by strong performances and a story that was much clearer, more coherent and easy to follow. Kris Kristofferson is no Robert Deniro and Isabelle Huppert isn't Meryl Streep either, which didn't make things any easier when Heaven's Gate finally showed up at box offices to strong anticipation. But in its favour, David Mansfield's score is unmissible and viewers will be rewarded by the over powering beauty of the cinematography. For serious cinema lovers, Heaven's Gate is worth a look, if only to see the film that sunk a studio - the last of its kind. But if you're expecting a popcorn western in the vein of Tombstone, stay well away...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Take no notice of the critics, this is a masterpiece, 16 May 2014
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I get the impression that the USA critics had a down on Michael Cimino, because how anyone can criticise this, baffles me. It is brilliant in every way. The acting is superb, the storyline is excellent and the scenery is majestic. I would dearly have loved to have seen the original which I understand was over 500 minutes, but I don't think that will ever happen. Instead I am left with something that in this form is absolutely magnificent. What do critics know anyway, have they ever acted themselves? To me they are a set of nomarks. Once again take no notice of them, this is a classic.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Heavily Cut Version, 29 May 2009
By 
Dr. Phillip J. Collier (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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I should have done my homework first! This is one of my favourite movies...a much under-rated classic. However, the full length version comes in at 209 minutes, whilst this version is only 144 minutes (the first cinema release). Michael Cimino never liked the first version and re-relesed the movie at full length some years later, to much better critical aclaim. The full length version is available at a similar price elsewhere, so look arounbd before you buy. Otherwise the delivery etc were all perfect.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Maybe it's time is now, 9 Mar 2014
By 
Le Blaireau (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Heaven's Gate Restored Edition 2 Discs [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
So, this is the film that bankrupted a studio and wrecked a director's reputation. My only previous experience of it was a considerably shorter version on VHS and whatever extremely average TV I had at the time.

As any quick glance at the current reviews of Gravity will show you, films like this tend to completely polarise opinion, from those who find it unbearably long and pointless, to those who consider it a true classic. I'm coming in nearer to the latter, with a few reservations.

I think that nowadays, we're coming back a little to the concept of allowing a director to tell a story in his own time - helped not the least by the revival of slow burning, multi-episode TV as HBO / Netflix etc are now bringing to the fore. To me, one of the great strengths of this film is exactly that - the violent scenes are that bit more effective because they come as a contrast to the scenes that build up character, and it's the characters that are at the heart of the film. Kristofferson, as others have said, is superb, as is Walken, and the newly restored 5.1 Master soundtrack means that you can now hear Huppert, who I recall was almost indecipherable in the original version.

The new transfer is excellent, yes grainy in some of the lower light shots (and grain doesn't have to be a bad thing), but the sweep of the Wyoming landscapes is magnificently caught.

It's not perfect - compared to the main characters, the "other side" (for want of a better phrase) are a bit skimpily drawn. Sam Waterston is a bit too much comic-book villain (you can almost picture him twirling his moustache) - nowadays he'd have been played for sure by Ralph Fiennes... and I didn't think the John Hurt character came across at all, OK he was the cocky orator who was in fact a feeble man, but I didn't feel he contributed to the plot.

I felt that the current length is about right, it didn't outstay it's welcome. It's a very fine film, with the reservations mentioned above, and the new version does it justice. What it surely shows beyond question is that while someone, somewhere, messed up the financials big time, Cimino didn't deserve the pasting he got,
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Heaven's Gate Restored Edition 2 Discs [Blu-ray]
Heaven's Gate Restored Edition 2 Discs [Blu-ray] by Michael Cimino (Blu-ray - 2013)
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