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Critical Reassessment: 'Heaven’s Gate' And 11 More Films That Have Been Reconsidered Over Time

Features
by The Playlist Staff
December 5, 2012 2:18 PM
41 Comments
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“One From The Heart” (1982)
With some of these selections there's been an undercurrent of “Yes, not that bad, but, hey, not really that good, either.” But none on this list sums it up so succinctly as “One From the Heart,” and the thing it is most known for, its soundtrack. Bluntly, it features Tom Waits (always relevant) and Crystal Gayle (known for having long hair.) Shot on heavily stylized interior sets made to look like the Vegas strip, this film is all neon and deep colors and Nastassja Kinski wearing wispy clothes in a giant martini glass. Francis Ford Coppola isn't afraid to go put a stylistic stake in the ground (he'd do so again with “Rumble Fish” and with “Tetro”) and “One From The Heart” is, indeed, a visual treat. The characters don't quite gel, however, and it is no wonder that this movie didn't connect with audiences. A $26 million budget netted around $640,000 domestically, forcing Coppola to declare bankruptcy. (Some of that money went toward then-new video editing technology that enabled a live camera-mounted feed and the ability to “call shots” like a TV director, look at live playback and have blueprint assemblies made instantaneously.) The two-disc DVD came out in 2003, a re-release hit select cities in 2004 (the San Francisco Chronicle called it “an integral piece of the oeuvre of one of America's great directors") and a Blu-ray comes out this week with the new Coppola box set.

“Ryan's Daughter” (1970)
Sir David Lean's run of big fat friggin' epics had no equal. “The Bridge on the River Kwai” followed by “Lawrence of Arabia” followed by “Dr. Zhivago” showed that he could bring gorgeous imagery and exuberant drama back from any corner of the globe. At least until he went to Ireland. Reteaming with 'Lawrence' and 'Zhivago' writer Robert Bolt for a loose adaptation of “Madame Bovary,” “Ryan's Daughter” is 195 minutes of Super Panavision 70 mm footage of Robert Mitchum and a bunch of other guys standing around in wool getting wet. Okay, that's not an accurate description, but it's how we emember it. In 1970 Vincent Canby accused it of substituting grandeur for depth and Roger Ebert said it was “less than met the eye.” In 2006 it got the double-disc DVD release with Lean's original cut (206 rainy minutes!) and the Film Society of Lincoln Center has programmed it for a New Year's Eve screening as part of its “See It in 70mm” series. David Kehr's accompanying blurb on FilmLinc's website (from a review written in 1985, so ahead of the curve reassessment-wise) trumpets “crazy mismatches in scale contribut[ing] to the film's sense of romantic delirium.” So maybe it might be worth giving this another shot.

"Sorcerer" (1977)
Ever-controversial filmmaker William Friedkin has been fighting on behalf of his winningly grimy remake of Henri-Georges Clouzot's 1953 film noir "The Wages of Fear" from its initial 1980 production to present. His still ongoing lawsuit against Paramount Pictures for ownership of the film is a testament to how sticky the film's legacy has become. But like Clouzot's film before it, Friedkin's movie is brimming with the over-the-top pulp realism and vicious sense of humor that makes it so spectacular. A key influence on Stephen Soderbergh's "Che," Friedkin's film follows a team of desperate Nicaraguan migrant workers that offer to ferry a shipment of unstable dynamite 200 miles across the jungle. Roy Scheider stars in a role that Friedkin originally wanted to cast Steve McQueen in, and that Scheider was later reluctant to talk about (Friedkin reportedly removed a subplot that made Scheider's character look more sympathetic). But the film is as over-sized as it is because Friedkin is effectively making three different films: the first is a spy thriller, the second a docudrama about the gruesome and inhumane conditions Nicaraguan peasants live in, and the third is a sweat-and-blood-covered ticking-clock thriller. The results are almost as immediately gripping as Clouzot's original, though never quite as engrossing.  In fact, Friedkin, a great admirer of Clouzot's "Les Diaboliques," has recently said that while he's satisfied with the film, he himself doesn't think it could ever touch "Wages of Fear."

“Zabriskie Point” (1970)
Hungry freaks, daddy. MGM throws a bunch of money at some crazy Italian “artist” (Michelangelo Antonioni) in the hopes of getting the kids all worked up. Sam Shepard collaborates on the script (but travels to Europe by sea because he's terrified of flying.) The result is a movie that's half Marxist blathering and half naked hippies rolling around in the dirt. Then a cantilevered modern home explodes and Wonder Bread wrappers float by the camera in slow motion. It was a box office disaster that the squares hated (naturally) but the kids by and large rejected it, too, because it seemed to come a little too late. Few critics were kind. It never sank into total obscurity, though, for a number of reasons. Despite having no stars (the leads were bonafide revolutionaries, man) the soundtrack featuring Pink Floyd, the Grateful Dead and others had some choice tracks, so it was a ubiquitous curiosity at video stores forever. In the mid-1990s a nice print showed up at New York's Anthology Film Archives and suddenly people were paying more attention to the cinematography (the way the billboards of LA are framed are, indeed, something special) than to the subtle-as-a-battle-mace dialogue. Once again our friend Dave Kehr leads the voice of revisionism, this time in the New York Times in 2009. For the release of the Blu-ray he writes the film has “grown stranger and more compelling with the passing years. What once seemed like a bluntly didactic fiction from the European left (beautiful young idealists brought down by the Man) now looks politically ambiguous and artistically elusive.”

Honorary Mentions: Other films you could consider in the same category include "The Shining" (which saw Shelley Duvall nominated for a Razzie), the coolly-received 'Blade Runner," Scorsese's "New York New York," Hitchcock's "Marnie" and "Frenzy," Coppola's "The Outsiders," Brian De Palma's "Dressed To Kill" (and indeed, much of the director's work, which maintains a fervent critical following), Friedkin's "Cruising," John Boorman's "Zardoz," Ken Russell's "The Devils" and even "Bonnie & Clyde," which was initially dismissed, only to get a second win soon after thanks to Pauline Kael, among others.

And then there's more recent fare that's starting to get re-evaluated: David Fincher's "The Game," Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut," Terry Gilliam's "Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas," David Cronenberg's "Crash," the Coen Brothers' "The Ladykillers" and even Kenneth Lonergan's "Margaret." What films, older or recent, would you like to see get a second shake of the critical stick? And which films from this year do you think will get a reappraisal in decades to come? Weigh in below.

- Jordan Hoffman, Simon Abrams, Rodrigo Perez, Kevin Jagernauth, Oliver Lyttelton

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41 Comments

  • thedude | April 22, 2014 8:12 AMReply

    "but if you look at the 5-Star reviews on Amazon for the recent 3-disc set (featuring a five hour and twenty minute cut!!"

    Where are you seeing this. I can only find the usual 251 min. version????

  • Kim | April 21, 2014 4:48 PMReply

    In addition to Hook. I think Duck, You Sucker! by Sergio Leone should be heralded as a straight classic. Other films that did not receive the recognition I believe they totally deserve are: Life (yes, the Ted Demme film with Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence), *batteries not included, Sphere, Clockers, The Hudsucker Proxy and One Eight Seven.

  • Kim | April 21, 2014 4:43 PMReply

    Steven Spielberg's Hook! The leads play with such joy, the production design, albeit a little tacky, is definitely creative, the visual effects still hold up, John Williams contributes some of his very best work to the score and most importantly: every single child actor in this picture actually does a brilliant job! And I didn't even mention Rufio yet...

  • sanjuro | April 14, 2014 5:19 AMReply

    Drinking Buddies, Safety Not Guaranteed, very poor independent movies, badly written, uninteresting, with directing hardly better than TV sitcoms, that receive praise from lousy critics. Hopefully they will be reassessed and severely downgraded as they deserve in a near future. There are some much better independent movies out there.

  • Michael O'Farrell | December 30, 2012 8:27 PMReply

    To the Playlist staff: It's not true that Charles Laughton disliked his child actors in "The Night Of The Hunter. Disc # 2 of Criterion's superb presentation of the film features a 2 1/2 hour documentary consisting mainly of footage that didn't make it into the final release version : what ended up on the cutting room floor. The presentation is entitled "Charles Laughton Directs" and that is exactly what is shown :Laughton directing his actors, with numerous segments showing his brilliant handling of his child actors, who he treats sternly but really with great support and loving guidance. The fact that the movie was ignored by the studio was criminal. One of America's greatest movies went almost completely unnoticed back in 1955, and sadly Laughton, discouraged by the then poor critical and box office reception, never directed another film. The man was a genius.

  • walking on coal | December 17, 2012 7:22 AMReply

    It's only the latest sign of the rehabilitation of Michael Cimino's epic Western that famously brought down its studio, virtually ended the director's career, and became so synonymous with disaster that Kevin Costner's "Waterworld" was nicknamed "Kevin's Gate" by wags when it seemed that it too was headed for failure.

    http://www.sdfirewalk.com/

  • TommyT | December 11, 2012 12:57 PMReply

    I'm surprised not to see Terry Gilliam's Brazil in your list when you included Fear & Loathing. The battle that Gilliam had with Sid Sheinberg & Universal is legendary.

  • Toby | December 6, 2012 10:44 PMReply

    The Fountain, Bringing Out the Dead, Popeye and Speedracer for starters.

  • vortex | December 6, 2012 5:39 PMReply

    I'd add "Near Dark."

  • vortex | December 6, 2012 5:42 PM

    And "Angel Heart."

  • vortex | December 6, 2012 5:41 PM

    Also, "Streets of Fire."

  • Baley | December 6, 2012 2:26 AMReply

    Wages of Fear is by no stretch of the imagination a film noir.

  • OWEN | December 5, 2012 10:01 PMReply

    One I was sure was bound to appear, at least between the "Honorary Mentions", is Peeping Tom, a movie that basically destroyed Michael Powell career and resurfaced thanks to the championing of Martin Scorsese. There's a great entry about it in Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" (wich more or less seals the deal concerning the critical reevaluation of a film). Link! http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19990502/REVIEWS08/905020301/1023
    (By the way, I thnk Ebert is wrong when he says people rejected this movie and embraced Psycho because the macabre was expected from Hitchcock, but because Hitchcock always made clear that was all in jest, and always gave his audience escape points from all the grimness - being the humor or the characters you're clearly meant to identify with - while people rejected this movie because, as Ebert certainly notes, made them feel part of the stoking and eventual murdering of the victims. It's all about the perverse pleasures of watching in the dark, you know? Curiously this also could be considered the reason "Frenzy", a later movie in Hitch career, was one of his few flops)

  • Alex | December 5, 2012 4:36 PMReply

    Marie Antoinette. Sofia Coppola's Warhol-esque dissection of celebrity is brilliant, and it's only getting better with time. Firstly, the meticulous art direction couldn't be better, but then there's also Kirsten Dunst, who really gets deep into the psyche of a character we all hate and even makes us sympathetic towards her. Coppola's anachronistic musical choices are amazing as usual (Gang of Four! The Strokes!), and her direction shines as well--this is a really beautiful movie. Marie Antoinette is a culturally important with film that is a testament to the lasting obsession with celebrity and its emptiness that absolutely deserves a critical reevaluation.

  • Vortex | December 6, 2012 5:38 PM

    I completely agree. This one blew me away when I first saw it and it keeps getting better every viewing.

  • DN | December 6, 2012 2:09 PM

    At the risk of appearing a total snob, "Marie Antoinette" is the litmus test that a director colleague and I use to gauge the sensibilities of potential collaborators. If they're down with "Marie," they're down with us. The movie is freakin' brilliant.

  • droop | December 6, 2012 7:01 AM

    yesss

  • AdamA | December 5, 2012 11:51 PM

    I completely agree with Marie Antoinette. Upon first viewing the year it was released, I was severly disappointed. Upon watching it a second and third time I realized how good this film is. This is Coppola unique take on this well known historical story.

  • Tim | December 5, 2012 3:57 PMReply

    glad to see one of my all time favorites, Zardoz, pop up in the honorable mentions. I think recent critical opinion places that film awkwardly somewhere between the "undeservedly panned masterpiece" and the "so bad it's good" categories, which is probably about where it belongs - it's as brilliant as it is ridiculous, and a rare example of a film that comes off better today not in spite of, but rather BECAUSE of how poorly it's aged. in both the outdatedness of its style and the pointedness of its theme it serves a bizarre death knell to the hippie age.

  • OWEN | December 5, 2012 9:43 PM

    And the way it's aged I think actually helps the feeling of isolated reality the whole thing has, and in the end it works for the intention of the filmmakers of depict a society truly removed from our own. When you try to replicate that intentionally it comes off just as a retro toy, overly aware of being a movie, like this year "Beyond the black rainbow" (although I could imagine a Zardoz fan liking it, the self-awareness made it unwatchable for me).
    Also: THAT Connery suit. There are few men that can wear that with a completely straight face (a straight face attitude that makes the movie work by the way, the mere hint of ironic distance and the whole thing would fall apart).

  • TheoC | December 5, 2012 3:50 PMReply

    I really hope Argo is reassessed to "fancy TV movie of the week". Lebowski came out pretty flat, and somewhat divisive though you wouldn't think that now.

    John Carter will go the TRON route and have a pointless sequel in 30 years with the late Taylor Kitsch's head CG'ed, it will still be fucking stupid.

    This is a really good list, though I'm not buying Zardoz, I've always loved Cronenberg's Crash despite how often you have to explain it's not the Paul Haggis movie.

  • wes | December 6, 2012 10:30 AM

    Word on Argo, Theoc.

  • daniel | December 5, 2012 3:47 PMReply

    Catch-22 is another i'd throw on this list; finally folks are starting to see how great that picture was. I saw it before reading the book, and while the book is equally amazing, i have to say, the movie means yet more to me. Funereal slapstick, that movie. Genius.

  • Ken | December 5, 2012 3:25 PMReply

    Eyes Wide Shut is STARTING to get re-evaluated? It's fucking brilliant. I'm pretty sure it was one of Scorsese's top 10 films of the 1990s too.

  • Matt | December 9, 2012 5:54 PM

    Kubrick made Eyes Wide Shut.

  • Matt | December 9, 2012 5:53 PM

    Kubrick made eyes wide shut

  • droop | December 6, 2012 7:00 AM

    it is indeed fucking brilliant

  • Harley Quinn | December 5, 2012 3:11 PMReply

    Cleopatra isn't nearly as bad as people make it out to be and I'm sick of people harping on about it. Is it great? No. But is it the worst movie ever? Certainly not. If they had made it into 2 movies, as originally planned, it would've been a lot better.

  • Wes | December 5, 2012 2:46 PMReply

    Boo: Bringing Up Baby and The Game!
    Yea: Ladykillers and Crash!

  • wes | December 6, 2012 10:28 AM

    I've always thought it was overrated nowadays.

  • Chris | December 5, 2012 3:13 PM

    Wait, you're booing Bringing Up Baby? Are you kidding?

  • JJansen | December 5, 2012 2:45 PMReply

    "Friedkin reportedly removed a subplot that made Scheider's character look more sympathetic"

    I have done some research into this comment. This is urban legend and false. The statement is a mis-quote from the book HURRICANE BILLY about the script for SORCERER. Walon Green's screenplay contains no subplot featuring a small boy in the village. This may have been discussed, but there is no evidence of script pages or any footage to cut out of the film to upset Scheider. The novelization of the script/film also does not contain any additional scenes with this subplot idea.

    The bio book on Scheider STILL WATERS uses this false information and it is also included on the Wiki page. If you can find any evidence at all...please do so. If not, there is no reason to keep this "issue" alive in relation to SORCERER. (A great film in 1977 and still today)

  • JJansen | December 5, 2012 2:45 PMReply

    "Friedkin reportedly removed a subplot that made Scheider's character look more sympathetic"

    I have done some research into this comment. This is urban legend and false. The statement is a mis-quote from the book HURRICANE BILLY about the script for SORCERER. Walon Green's screenplay contains no subplot featuring a small boy in the village. This may have been discussed, but there is no evidence of script pages or any footage to cut out of the film to upset Scheider. The novelization of the script/film also does not contain any additional scenes with this subplot idea.

    The bio book on Scheider STILL WATERS uses this false information and it is also included on the Wiki page. If you can find any evidence at all...please do so. If not, there is no reason to keep this "issue" alive in relation to SORCERER. (A great film in 1977 and still today)

  • JJansen | December 5, 2012 2:45 PMReply

    "Friedkin reportedly removed a subplot that made Scheider's character look more sympathetic"

    I have done some research into this comment. This is urban legend and false. The statement is a mis-quote from the book HURRICANE BILLY about the script for SORCERER. Walon Green's screenplay contains no subplot featuring a small boy in the village. This may have been discussed, but there is no evidence of script pages or any footage to cut out of the film to upset Scheider. The novelization of the script/film also does not contain any additional scenes with this subplot idea.

    The bio book on Scheider STILL WATERS uses this false information and it is also included on the Wiki page. If you can find any evidence at all...please do so. If not, there is no reason to keep this "issue" alive in relation to SORCERER. (A great film in 1977 and still today)

  • Ricky | December 5, 2012 2:43 PMReply

    I'd also include David Lynch's Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me to this list. It was booed when it premiered at Cannes in 1992 and was brutally received by the critics ("It isn't the worst movie ever made; it just seems to be" -Vincent Canby) later that year and was a box office bomb, but it seems like it's been reappraised over time and now seems much, much more highly-regarded, and is now analyzed and discussed as a very relevant entry in Lynch's filmography.

    Also, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, which I think most seem to agree now that, George Lazenby aside (who again, isn't as terrible as most initially felt he was post-Sean Connery), is actually one of the best Bond films in the series and really laid the groundwork for the more emotional, sensitive, character-driven angle that the more recent Daniel Craig films have taken.

  • Brian | December 6, 2012 5:02 PM

    Fire Walk With Me is a favorite of mine. Thank you for mentioning it.

  • San Simeon | December 6, 2012 7:56 AM

    Agreed on both counts. Fire Walk With Me is a pretty good-to-great film that lives in the shadow of its namesake television series, but does serve as an effective prologue and coda to it. I'd be interested to see all of the deleted scenes from it, too.

  • BrianZ | December 5, 2012 2:26 PMReply

    Nice article. My only qualm, and I apologize for being one of those guys, but who is defending the Coens' Ladykillers?

  • San Simeon | December 6, 2012 7:14 AM

    I have no idea. I've never seen comment on that movie qualified as anything other than the Coen's worst.

  • Fred | December 5, 2012 4:24 PM

    Lots of people are and always have. Sorry I can't come up with a definitive list of names other than my own.

  • Chris | December 5, 2012 2:36 PM

    Yeah, I'm with Brianz. Has there been some major undercurrent of support for The Ladykillers in recent years that I just haven't noticed? The others you mentioned make sense, but The Ladykillers? Hardly.

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