By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Five Beers) –
Ranchers plot to kill 125 people within Johnson County, Wyoming in the 1890s, and a hooker can’t decide which man she wants to be with. Take a guess which plot line the movie spends three goddamn hours developing.
Director Michael Cimino’s film had so much going for it, gorgeous cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond, a star-studded cast of dependable actors who delivered provocative and complex performances, and a story which covers a truly interesting point of Western history. Yet, the film was a box office bomb and a critical failure of such massive proportions that it essentially ended the New Hollywood movement, bringing a stop to a decade of unprecedented artistic freedom in major motion pictures. So what caused this disaster to unfold?
No, you’re thinking of the wrong Heaven’s Gate
There are times when releasing a longer “Director’s Cut” of a film improves it by leaps and bounds (Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America for instance). The original theatrical cut of Heaven’s Gate felt a bit like watching Michael Cimino struggling in vain for two and a half hours to jack off into a cup. The 219 minute restored cut improves the film only so much as adding lube and showing the cum-shot would improve the image I just put in your head.
The love triangle subplot between Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken and Isabelle Huppert is completely unexciting in every way. The love triangle cliché is fairly overused in cinema, so it was a bit surprising that Cimino chose to use it as the pivotal relationship in his epic Western film. This is especially infuriating since the horrifying historical events happening in the background are always more interesting.
Why the goddamn hell does Michael Cimino think people want to see a 20 minute dance scene in a movie?… much less two. And just when you think it’s over, he gives you another, more intimate dance scene just to make the audience wish they’d slit their wrists an hour earlier.
(No, you don’t get it, I want you to get sick and die of dance fever…)
The battle sequence at the end of the film is supposed to feel like an epic struggle, but is handled with little understanding for how an action sequence should be shot. I found myself detached from the action, because I couldn’t tell who the antagonists were at any given time. The battle sequence is so overwrought, with awkward cut-aways and laughable scenarios which sometimes reach Monty Python levels of absurdity.
Not without its artistic merits… not without a fair amount of terrible.
Take a Drink: for dancing
Take a Drink: anytime someone says “Citizens” or “immigrants/emigrants”
Do a Shot: whenever a shot lingers too long on something