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Heaven’s Gate Discussion


Doug Mckenna

I wish to offer this mini appreciation of Michael Cimino’s “Heaven’s Gate” here on this page because of our hero’s involvement in the film & because I strongly believe in the film. “Heaven’s Gate” was deemed a failure when it came out. A massive failure. A failure that busted a studio, destroyed it’s director’s career & dropped Kris Kristofferson from an “A List” Star to a “B” List Star. It was a disaster. Financially.

The critics, because of it’s troubled reputation & it’s excesses & because of the artistic integrity of it’s director, wanted it to be so. The studio, first in gutting it once, then in pulling it from release, then cutting it again before release, assured that it was a disaster. For them. One, really, of their own making.

It is not, however, an artistic disaster. In fact, far from it. Visually it is, in it’s own rather unique way, stunning. Beautiful & yet anti-beautiful &, in being so, even more beautiful. It’s scope, which is also it’s weight, it’s albatross, is marvelously appealing although, admittedly, hard to digest in one viewing & a viewing of this very long film is not one sitting. A pause button is a must in the taking in of this broad & heavy film. The script is good. At times very good. The cast is marvelous. The performances are very satisfying. Our man Kris, is very good indeed & is, I think, perfectly cast.

I think we see our hero, for Kris is our hero, in a fuller light, a fuller scope, than we had before & maybe since. Isabella Hupert & Christopher Walken are pitch perfect as is Jeff Bridges, John Hurt, Sam Waterston & the rest of the cast.

The excesses are excesses. Effective excesses. Memorable, very memorable, for the color, the character they lend to the film & although they are indeed self indulgent of Mr. Cimino they are so in the way that makes this an artist work, an artist canvas, & not an artist assignment.

The music is lovely—richly satisfying—& works on many levels.

This is running too long & so I will bring it to a close with stating that though, admittedly, I can not watch this film without definitely being in the mood & that mood has been, in my past, drunk & depressed I do strongly suggest that everyone watch it again in the near future & not just to see our man Kris but to appreciate a fine & unusual piece of cinematic art—albeit safely on video in your home & at your leisure.

These are my thoughts on “Heaven’s Gate” & if it prompts yours then it’s been worth sharing.

Kirk Smith – On the Set

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