Review: Heaven’s Gate (1980)

If it weren’t so long and overblown I’d recommend everyone see Heaven’s Gate, director Michael Cimino’s infamous box office bomb, credited with single-handedly killing the Hollywood studio system and ending the heyday decade of 1970s American film.

Eastern European immigrants clash with the wealthy “American” cattle men who feel they have a right to be there. Dark, bleak, depressing, things end badly for all. The love triangle between Christopher Walken, Isabelle Huppert (who has a hard time keeping her clothes on) and Kris Kristofferson (how did this guy keep making movies?) doesn’t fare any better. And with a running time of 219 minutes, neither does the audience.

There are almost as many reasons to see Heaven’s Gate as there are reasons why it deserves the slamming it originally garnered in 1980. Christopher Walken’s stiff performance as…Christopher Walken, for one. The cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond is impressive, especially if you catch it on the big screen (which is what I did at the Film Center) in all its Panavision glory.

And oh-oh-oh, there’s a Fiddler on the Roof roller-boogie dance number that has to be seen to be believed. Wow. [***]

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