the fresh films reviews

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Heaven's Gate (1980)

Directed by:
Michael Cimino

Epic western


219 minutes

Produced by:
Joann Carelli

Written by:
Michael Cimino

Cast includes:

Averill Kris Kristofferson
Champion Christopher Walken
Irvine John Hurt
Canton Sam Waterston
Mr. Eggleston Brad Dourif
Ella Isabelle Huppert
The Reverend Doctor Joseph Cotten -
John L. Bridges Jeff Bridges
Trapper Geoffrey Lewis
Mayor Lezak Paul Koslo -
Cully Richard Masur -
Captain Minardi Terry O'Quinn -
Nick Ray Mickey Rourke
Willy (uncredited) Willem Dafoe -



Dubbed by author and film critic Bret Easton Ellis as the movie that marked the end of the New Hollywood era, Heaven's Gate stands as a testament to said era's overindulgence and overambition. Michael Cimino was fresh off from creating his magnum opus The Deer Hunter, a film which won him almost every award imaginable and made him one of the hottest names in Hollywood. And the extravagant filmmaker went all-out with his follow-up, seemingly trying to do everything at once. The setting is 1890s Wyoming, where a melting pot of poor European immigrants run into conflict with wealthy cattle barons and landowners. But before we get there, Cimino takes us through a posh Harvard graduation, where our main protagonist Averill (Kris Kristofferson) and his pal Irvine (John Hurt) were educated as young, idealistic men. The foreshadowing is obvious, but Cimino is in no hurry getting his story flowing. He is more concerned with the framework for his big epic, setting up set decorations and locations which were among the most lavish at this time. Every image and composition is meant to look momentous and to a certain degree they do even if Cimino's soft focus gives many of the scenes a whiff of soft core porn. Nevertheless, there are segments of wonder and grandeur in Heaven's Gate; segments which almost are able to infuse you with the mood Cimino arguably had intended. The problem is just that the story remains anemic from start to finish and never really gels. There are bits and pieces of interesting elements, but the film has severe problems with editing and progression and never becomes engaging as a whole. It very much deserves the reputation is has as a monumental failure.

Copyright 09.02.2024 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang