Michael Cimino's 'Heaven's Gate' Restored & Headed To Venice Film Festival; Criterion Collection Edition On The Way?

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by Kevin Jagernauth
July 25, 2012 12:33 PM
10 Comments
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A cautionary tale and a film that stood as the symbolic end to a great era in American filmmaking, when cinema history looks back on Michael Cimino, his infamous "Heaven's Gate" will be discussed in equal measure to his masterpiece, "The Deer Hunter."

To call production on "Heaven's Gate" troubled would be a massive understatement. The stories of what happened on the set of the film veer somewhere between exaggerated myth and the truth, but the bottom line is that it ran tremendously behind schedule and overbudget, with Cimino making unreasonable demands that included the tearing down and rebuilding of sets, and shooting an endless amount of footage (over 200 hours worth). As Willem Dafoe recently shared, he was called to work on the film and basically wound up sitting around for three months before getting fired and ultimately having his role reduced to that of an extra. In any event, the movie, which already had bad press, was ultimately savaged by critics and flopped hard at the box office, taking $3 million (it cost, in 2012 dollars, $122 million). The film is largely seen as the end of the '70s glory years of auteur-driven filmmaking at the major studios, and today still serves as the prime example of directorial hubris. But it will get a second chance to find new life.

The Venice Film Festival announced today that a restored version of the 219-minute cut of the film will screen on the Lido this year (where it first premiered in 1982), and even more, Cimino himself will be making a rare public appearance (and will finally put to bed those rumors he had a sex change). The curious nugget of info is that in the press release it says they will be screening a "restored copy by Criterion." Could an edition on the boutique label be far away? It looks like it. Fans at the Criterion Forum have noticed that at this year's AMIA/The Reel Thing conference in August, Criterion Collection producer Lee Kline is presenting: "Case Study – Reconstructing and Restoring Heaven’s Gate." So yeah, you can put that one together for yourself.

But that's not all Venice is having to offer with classic films this year: Orson Welles' "Chimes At Midnight," Ingmar Bergman's "Fanny & Alexander," Howard Hawks' "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" and much more will get big screen showings. But "Heaven's Gate" will clearly be one of the most talked about. Misunderstood classic or still a grand mess? We'll see what folks say very soon.

The Venice Film Festival runs from August 29th to Septmeber 28th. Classics line up below after a trailer for "Heaven's Gate."

VENEZIA CLASSICI – Restored Films

· The Mattei Affair (Il caso Mattei, 1972)
by Francesco Rosi, Italy, 1972 (Restored by Cineteca di Bologna at the lab L’Immagine Ritrovata in collaboration with The Film Foundation, Paramount Pictures and Museo Nazionale del Cinema of Turin. Restoration financed by Gucci, Eni, and The Film Foundation)
· Heaven’s Gate (219’)
by Michael Cimino, USA, 1980 (Criterion)
· Chimes at Midnight (Campanadas a medianoche, 1965s)
by Orson Welles, Spain, 1965 (Filmoteca Española)
· Karumen kokyō ni kaeru (Carmen Comes Home, 1951)
by Kinoshita Keisuke, Japan, 1951 (Shochiku)
· Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (Indagine su un cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto, 1970) (Sony)
by Elio Petri, Italy, 1970
· Stromboli (Stromboli Terra di Dio, 1950)
by Roberto Rossellini, Italy, 1950 (Istituto Luce Cinecittà, Cineteca di Bologna, CSC-Cineteca Nazionale, Coproduction Office)
· Tell Me Lies
by Peter Brook, UK/USA, 1968 (Fondation Technicolor pour le Patrimoine du Cinéma)
· Pigsty (Porcile, 1969)
by Pier Paolo Pasolini, Italy, 1969 (Cineteca di Bologna)
· Miracle (Himala, 1982)
by Ishmael Bernal, Philippines, 1982 (Film Development Council of Philippines, Manila)
· Anita Garibaldi (Camicie rosse, 1952)
by Goffredo Alessandrini, Italy, 1952 (Cineteca Nazionale)
· Terra animata (1967, 7’) e SKMP2 (1968, 30’)
by Luca Patella (Cineteca Nazionale)
· Sunset Boulevard
by Billy Wilder, USA, 1950, Paramount
· Fanny e Alexander (BIM)
by Ingmar Bergman, Sweden, 1982
· Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (20th Century Fox)
by Howard Hawks, USA, 1953
· The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, (20th Century Fox)
by Joseph L. Mankiewicz , USA, 1947
· South Seas Adventure (Cinerama, 1958)
by Francis D. Lvon Walter Thompson, Basil Wrangler, Richard Goldstone, Carl Dudley, USA, 120’
· To Be Twenty in the Aures (Avoir 20 ans dans le Aurès, 1972) (Cinémathèque française)
by René Vautier, France, 1972
· The Tenth Victim (La decima vittima, 1965)
by Elio Petri, Italy, 1965 (Cineteca di Bologna, Museo Nazionale del Cinema of Turin)
· American Dreams
by James Benning, USA, 1984, 53’ (FilmMuseum Vienna)

VENEZIA CLASSICI - Documentaries

· La Guerra dei vulcani
by Francesco Patierno (Italy)
· Dai nostri inviati alla Mostra di Venezia
by G. Giannotti, D. Savelli, E. Salvatori (Italy)
· Valentino’s Ghost
by Michael Singh (USA)
· Miradas Multiples
by Emilio Maillé (Messico-France-Spain)
· Harry Dean Stanton Partly Fiction
by Sophie Huber (USA-Switzerland)
· Conteurs d’images
by Noelle Deschamps (France)
· Sedia elettrica
by Monica Strambini (Italy)
· Gli anni delle immagini perdute
by Adolfo Conti (Italy)
· Monicelli. La versione di Mario
by Mario Canale, Felice Farina, Mario Gianni, Wilma Labate, Annarosa Morri (Italy)

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10 Comments

  • General Giap | August 13, 2012 5:58 AMReply

    Heaven's Gate is Cimino's masterpiece, not the macho racist fantasy that is The Deer Hunter. A Criterion blu-ray will be most welcome, but I hope the film remains in 35mm circulation on the rep circuit.

  • Steven Flores | July 25, 2012 4:37 PMReply

    I may not be a fan of Heaven's Gate but I'll definitely get a Criterion release of that film. I wanna see the 2 1/2 hour version that came out after the original version bombed just to compare and contrast.

  • hank | July 25, 2012 3:05 PMReply

    This is glorious news. The film is a masterpiece and has some of the most gorgeous cinematography in the history of cinema. Once a Criterion edition is released, those who never gave the film a passing glance will be declaring it one of the greatest films ever made, as they should.

  • SpankNASTY | July 25, 2012 2:44 PMReply

    Will Michael Cimino ever make anohter movie? Wasn't he gonna make Man's Fate?
    also I do not think he had a sex change but rather bad plastic surgeory?
    He released a book in Italy but I wonder if it is yet to be translated and/or released here in the United States.
    His commentary for Year of the Dragon is amazing.

  • WHITESTARR | July 25, 2012 2:41 PMReply

    Will we ever see the 5 hr and 20 mintue version of Heavens Gate. I believe Cimino shot a battle sequence alone that is like a hour long

  • redcup | July 25, 2012 2:04 PMReply

    If "cinema history" were to get it right, then Thunderbolt and Lightfoot would be seen as Cimino's masterpiece.

  • Chris | July 25, 2012 1:51 PMReply

    HOWARD HAWKS' Some Like it Hot? Are you kidding? Don't worry, it's only Billy Wilder's most famous film. Easy mistake to make.

  • Craig | July 25, 2012 1:09 PMReply

    Billy Wilder directed "Some Like It Hot"

  • RLeed | July 25, 2012 12:52 PMReply

    Heaven's Gate is a great film, I don't care what anyone says. It's got some flaws, but it's got a hypnotic effect on me when I watch it, like Barry Lyndon. Watch it with an open mind.

  • Remy | July 25, 2012 12:45 PMReply

    Having seen the 219' cut, I can say it was not as bad as the critics would have you think. In my opinion the backlash was rooted more on Cimino's excesses (alleged or not). There's an interesting documentary about the production: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0424089/

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