636 Heaven's Gate

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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Dylan
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Re: 636 Heaven's Gate

#176 Post by Dylan » Sun Nov 25, 2012 3:07 am

The screen grabs I've seen of the new release retain the "flashed negative" look of Heaven's Gate, which is pretty much the same look nearly every Zsigmond-shot film has up until Blow Out (including Images, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Obsession, Close Encounters, even the portions he shot of The Picasso Summer), but the quality of the image of course appears to be better than anything available before (as stated by others). What do you mean they "removed" it? It looks like how I remembered it being, more or less.

Strange that Zsigmond isn't to be found on the extras, though. He absolutely loved the film and was very proud of his work on it, and admitted in an interview he'd sunk into a severe depression that lasted nearly a year following the film's savaging.

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Cold Bishop
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Re: 636 Heaven's Gate

#177 Post by Cold Bishop » Sun Nov 25, 2012 3:13 am

As for Vilmos Zsigmond, whose lush cinematography in both The Deer Hunter and Heaven’s Gate earned accolades, Mr. Cimino said: “Vilmos and all those guys have built themselves up to be bigger than directors. It’s bullshit. Does anyone remember who shot Kubrick’s movies? Do you remember who shot David Lean’s movies? No one remembers who shot Dr. Strangelove or Barry Lyndon .”

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Re: 636 Heaven's Gate

#178 Post by MichaelB » Sun Nov 25, 2012 3:36 am

Cold Bishop wrote:"Does anyone remember who shot Kubrick’s movies? Do you remember who shot David Lean’s movies? No one remembers who shot Dr. Strangelove or Barry Lyndon .”
Gilbert Taylor and John Alcott. And I didn't even have to look them up.

Granted, people are more likely to remember the director, but the vast majority of people wouldn't register their name either.

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Re: 636 Heaven's Gate

#179 Post by peerpee » Sun Nov 25, 2012 4:55 am

Dylan wrote:The screen grabs I've seen of the new release retain the "flashed negative" look of Heaven's Gate, which is pretty much the same look nearly every Zsigmond-shot film has up until Blow Out (including Images, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Obsession, Close Encounters, even the portions he shot of The Picasso Summer), but the quality of the image of course appears to be better than anything available before (as stated by others). What do you mean they "removed" it? It looks like how I remembered it being, more or less.
From what I've seen of this film prior to this Blu-ray, it used to be bathed in russet and sepia hues (even clips on YouTube from the old DVD are). It now has a more 'normal' looking colour scheme. The Blu-ray does not have the muted colour palette associated with Zsigmond's flashing – the restoration demonstration on the disc is very interesting in that regard. I thought the Blu-ray looked extraordinary. Will be interesting to hear what Zsigmond thinks of it.

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Re: 636 Heaven's Gate

#180 Post by peerpee » Sun Nov 25, 2012 5:05 am

Cold Bishop wrote:
Do you remember who shot David Lean’s movies?
If Cimino really said all that, it's pretty spectacularly dickish.

Particularly as Freddie Young shot a bunch of Lean's films, and he's widely regarded as having invented 'flashing', which inspired Zsigmond in the first place.

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Niale
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Re: 636 Heaven's Gate

#181 Post by Niale » Sun Nov 25, 2012 5:54 am

Guess that means Cimino forgot Douglas Milsome was the cinematographer on Kubricks Full Metal Jacket. Im sure it had nothing to do with his being hired as cinematographer for The Sunchaser.

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Re: 636 Heaven's Gate

#182 Post by stwrt » Sun Nov 25, 2012 11:52 am

He's probably peeved that someone other than himself is getting praised for how good the movie looks. I remember him having a rant on the commentary track for the UK Deer Hunter, about "cameramen" who are only around while the movie is being shot while others have to be there before, during and after the shooting.

Brianruns10
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Re: 636 Heaven's Gate

#183 Post by Brianruns10 » Sun Nov 25, 2012 4:03 pm

I've read enough statements made by Cimino over the course of his career, that a pattern starts to reveal itself. Everyone is against him, everyone is a philistine or a hack trying to leech off of him. He wrote "The Deer Hunter" nevermind what Deric Washburn or the Writer's Guild had to say. He edited "The Deer Hunter," and his original editor (who won the Oscar) was "a moron."

He says Steven Bach was never on set at Heaven's Gate, yet this cannot be, and it was Bach who is to be credited for saving the film by imposing some much needed structure to filming which wasn't being done by Cimino's "producer" Joann Carelli. And he has such unconscionable things to say about Vilmos Zsigmond, who has had nothing but good things to say about the end result.

It's Cimino against the rest of the world. He's a damn good director, probably even a brilliant one, but he seems to be one wretched human being.

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Matt
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Re: 636 Heaven's Gate

#184 Post by Matt » Sun Nov 25, 2012 4:56 pm

Flashing a negative wouldn't really do anything drastic to the color, it typically just gives a kind of light, hazy "halo" to the image and desaturates all colors just a bit. Completely desaturating the colors or adding a sepia tone would be a separate step, either done by filters up front or in color timing (or both).

The Long Goodbye is a good example of what a flashed negative looks like without any other fiddling with the color.

You wouldn't really be able to remove the effects of flashing via digital means since it's there in the negative. You might be able to add in some more color saturation, and it looks like maybe that's what Criterion did on Heaven's Gate. There's plenty of color, but you can definitely still see the effects of flashing, particularly in the 7th capture on DVD Beaver.

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Gregory
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Re: 636 Heaven's Gate

#185 Post by Gregory » Sun Nov 25, 2012 5:01 pm

Until now I've fought off the urge to counter some of these extreme statements about Cimino being some sort of pathological liar and a horrible human being (a lot of which seem to be based on pure hearsay, rumor, and assumptions) because I don't want to get in the middle of a good old-fashioned pile-on. I hoped it would run its course and then people would get down to some (re)assessment of the film now that the blu-ray is widely available, instead of making everything about judging Cimino for his personality rather than what he's created. I'm not interjecting to say that Cimino as a person is above criticism or to claim he hasn't descended into some late-career craziness and egomaniacal behavior. I don't deny that he's probably made some unfair remarks over the years, but it just isn't true to say he's always been that way, or that he undercuts everyone he's ever worked with. I've listened to what detractors have to say for many years, and it seems to me that it's been just as many or more people ganging up on Cimino as it's been him "against the rest of the world."
Anyway, to provide a few counterexamples, in the 1983 discussion with Nigel Andrews in the Guardian Lecture series, he says:
All the actors I've worked with I've liked very much, and fortunately I'm still friends with all of them. I would work with Jeff [Bridges] always. He's exactly as he appears on film; he's really absolutely wonderful to work with, and he's not afraid to try anything. ... Kristofferson is an extraordinary man. ... One of the things that hurt me about the reaction to [Heaven's Gate] was not what people said about me at all, but the fact that they ignored Kris's work, because he worked so terribly hard.
Talking about Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, he praised Clint Eastwood to the skies and spoke about how much he valued his technical knowledge of filmmaking, and what a pleasure it was to work with him. He even went to him to get his approval toward the beginning of shooting to make sure Eastwood was happy with what he was seeing.
He also discussed his collaboration with Zsigmond and talks about all their discussions about the look of the film and preparations before each shooting. At no point does he even imply that his own role was the most important; rather it seems he viewed himself (back then at least) as an equal member of a collaborative process who was reluctant to even assess what he had done or if he had made the best decisions. He points out that a lot of the decisions that affect the look of the film are made before the cinematographer's role is even in play, which I think is true.
Again, for all I know, at this point all the worst things people are saying about him are deserved (though some of them strike me as very hasty and implausible) but as far as I'm concerned he made a tremendous work of art in Heaven's Gate, went through enough that would probably change anyone for the worse, and emerged from the experience (at least before the years of silence about HG) as a totally calm, reasonable, and humble person who nonetheless wants to defend Deer Hunter and HG from a lot of blatantly unfair criticisms.
This all seems to prove the merits of what some of us have said about the film needing to stand on its own rather than being overshadowed by a bunch of contentious discussion of Cimino himself, the production history, and questions about the extent to which he deserved the backlash (something I think very few people, if anyone, could claim with any degree of fairness and sufficient knowledge of everything that happened).
I don't begrudge anyone having their say, of course, but I hate to see this be so one-sided, and it seems like this pile-on rekindles the toxic atmosphere of the original release that makes it difficult for many newcomers to the film to consider it on its own merits instead of as the work of some ridiculous, indulgent megalomaniac.
EDIT: The article in which he's quoted as calling Zinner a "moron" is so openly dripping with contempt for Cimino and so eager to present him as a complete train-wreck of a person that I would never trust the author, Nancy Griffin's version of events that led him to end up screaming at her, nor do I trust her to quote him faithfully.
At 62, Mr. Cimino looks like a cross between a cowboy hipster and your great-aunt Bessie. He teeters around in jeans and high-heeled boots with lifts fitted inside...(etc. etc.)
Oh, for christ's sake, I'm so embarrassed for people who write like that. How trivial can you get?

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Jeff
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Re: 636 Heaven's Gate

#186 Post by Jeff » Fri Dec 07, 2012 9:33 am

Gregory wrote:The article in which he's quoted as calling Zinner a "moron" is so openly dripping with contempt for Cimino and so eager to present him as a complete train-wreck of a person that I would never trust the author, Nancy Griffin's version of events that led him to end up screaming at her, nor do I trust her to quote him faithfully.
So are you suggesting that Ms. Griffin just made all those quotes up? That's a pretty bold charge to make about a journalist.

If I had breakfast with a man who, in the course of our conversation, compared himself to Nabokov, Tolstoy, and Picasso, then said "it’s like women who are rape victims: Some of them become professional victims for the rest of their lives,” compared the Writer's Guild to Nazis, and disparaged the work of his editor and cinematographer, implying that all credit for their work belonged to him, you'd better believe I'd be "dripping with contempt" for him too.

I'm sure that what happened to Heaven's Gate was scarring; the megalomania started in the wake of The Deer Hunter's success though. Yes, he likes to talk about all his actor pals, and what great friends they are. I don't find that particularly redeeming. It's nice that you want to stick up for the guy because he created a film you admire. I like it a lot too. I don't feel any need to extend that admiration to the man though, and can see absolutely no reason to give him the benefit of the doubt. I don't know the guy, and I'm sure that much has been exaggerated about him over the years, but I refuse to believe that the massive volume of vile stories that I've heard about things he has said and done over the past 30 years are all the result of misquotes, lies, and misunderstandings.

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Gregory
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Re: 636 Heaven's Gate

#187 Post by Gregory » Fri Dec 07, 2012 12:37 pm

Jeff wrote:... but I refuse to believe that the massive volume of vile stories that I've heard about things he has said and done over the past 30 years are all the result of misquotes, lies, and misunderstandings.
I've heard far fewer of those stories, which in itself is surely a crucial factor in how some of these anecdotes and hearsay comes across to me. And I'm not prepared to say that all such stories are lies, misquotes, and rumors, though a lot of that does happen. In fact, there's a certain type of interview-based story that otherwise "respectable" journalists will write that has a subtext that says "This is supposed to be a great artist/intellectual/whatever but he's really a scumbag/fruitcake/etc. I'm going to rile him up a bit and then take him down a couple of pegs in this piece." And I've known of cases where statements were then taken out of context or misquoted to damning effect. I'm probably pointing out the obvious there, but some of the Cimino stories I've come across had that feel to me.

I'm predominantly concerned with Heaven's Gate. I read Final Cut ages ago but since then have focused on everything to do with the film itself rather than the debacle surrounding it or Cimino's recent behavior. So I likely went a little too far in defending him, maybe unconsciously playing devil's advocate with some of it. I really don't mind what people say about him, and maybe most of it is deserved. My main interest is in seeing some new attention to the film for what it is, not as an extension of the director's ego. But for a few weeks it seemed that Cimino was becoming the new Lena Dunham punching bag, accompanied by (understandable) disappointment with the lack of extra material in Criterion's release. Many of the criticisms of the film from the beginning were unfair, misguided, or misinformed outright, and some of the things in this thread about Cimino unfair as well, so I guess I had a bad feeling about an unfortunate reception happening all over again, in a way. I think I've probably said my piece on this and don't need to say any more.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: 636 Heaven's Gate

#188 Post by matrixschmatrix » Fri Dec 07, 2012 3:05 pm

It seems as though, in a forum where we're excited to discuss Roman Polanski's work, we should be pretty apt at separating art from artist- but my impression is that the discussion of Cimino and his purported personal failings in this thread was spurred more by the magical disappearing supplements on the Criterion release than by a general desire to ignore the movie in favor of talking shit about him.

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Ashirg
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Re: 636 Heaven's Gate

#189 Post by Ashirg » Fri Dec 07, 2012 7:30 pm

You can now follow him on twitter...

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Niale
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Re: 636 Heaven's Gate

#190 Post by Niale » Fri Dec 07, 2012 9:08 pm

Ashirg wrote:You can now follow him on twitter...
Thats so cool! He put his correct date of birth and everything. What a surreal notion... The more angular aspects of his personality aside, the mans a genius, what a cool thing that he's doing this. I hope he writes about his abandoned The Fountainhead project.

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Re: 636 Heaven's Gate

#191 Post by Brianruns10 » Sat Dec 08, 2012 1:42 am

Any way to verify this is actually him, and not someone posing? Some of the posts read more like a college student's, than a director who, in the interviews I've heard with him, tends to be well spoken, precise and verbose.

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mfunk9786
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Re: 636 Heaven's Gate

#192 Post by mfunk9786 » Sat Dec 08, 2012 1:53 am

Sounds like you're describing his career

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Cold Bishop
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Re: 636 Heaven's Gate

#193 Post by Cold Bishop » Sat Dec 08, 2012 2:56 am

Yeah, that "Gary Shandling" tweet makes it sound like a fake. But I'd love to hear otherwise...

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feihong
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Re: 636 Heaven's Gate

#194 Post by feihong » Sat Dec 08, 2012 3:13 am

I don't find Cimino's egotism so horrible a character trait. He has, as far as I'm concerned, two masterpieces that more than establish him as being worthy of having an big head about himself. And then he's got 3 movies after those that suggest the opposite. But to me The Deer Hunter and Heaven's Gate outweigh all the rest of it. And really, his making a giant ass of himself is quite entertaining. Does all that still diminish his reputation for some people out there?

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Cold Bishop
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Re: 636 Heaven's Gate

#195 Post by Cold Bishop » Sat Dec 08, 2012 3:24 am

I don't necessarily blame him for his egoism either. But the guy's absolutely difficult and really his own worst enemy on a film set. The words "give 'em enough rope..." comes to mind.

That egoism just compounds that reputation for other people, and whether we like it or not, other people are those who will decide if he can make another film.

Still, him slagging off Vilmos Zsigmond just feels like backstabbing to me, since Vilmos has been one of his most ardent defenders, and Cimino had no problem praising his contributions in the past.

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Cold Bishop
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Re: 636 Heaven's Gate

#196 Post by Cold Bishop » Fri Dec 14, 2012 12:38 am

And the plot thinkens... Jeffrey Wells "verifies" it's him, but the last recent spate of tweets make that seem doubtful. Either its a fake, or Cimino has a much sharper and self-deprecating sense of humor than he ever let on.

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Re: 636 Heaven's Gate

#197 Post by Zot! » Tue Dec 18, 2012 12:49 pm

Just finished watching the new release, after not seeing for quite a few years. It looks beautiful. It's a defiantly odd movie, and I can totally understand the negative reception it recieved. A lyrical epic with extreme violence, rollerskating, and a hooker with the heart of gold scenario that was a little hard to swallow. I adore Chris Walkens show-stopping one liner, however. I equated the Kristofferson character with some kind of Gatsby flipside trying to tame the wild west. Considering the class concerns, romantic themes, and Kristofferson in a tuxedo staring wistfully at the sea, that doesn't seem too far off.

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Re: 636 Heaven's Gate

#198 Post by djproject » Sat Dec 22, 2012 1:48 am

Here are some of my own thoughts concerning Cimino and Heaven's Gate. (And for the record, I've only seen The Deer Hunter. And yes, I've watched numerous times the Final Cut documentary and his commercial for United Airlines).

Honestly, I don't see why Cimino is this great filmmaker. The only thing you can really say about him is he has a strong visual sense and a preference for allowing characters to be themselves, especially when it comes to practicing their culture. But even then, I think you can find that aspect in other filmmakers who are stronger in other respects. Whenever Cimino goes into storytelling mode, it's a groaner and uninteresting. Then there's the whole ego thing, which is irritating.

Take The Deer Hunter. I recently revisited it in light of Heaven's Gate's Criterion release after nearly thirteen years (I was seventeen when I first saw it). Honestly, the only part of it that I liked (after this revisit) was the first act before Michael and his friends are shipped off to Vietnam. Within that section, I liked when the characters and the setting were just themselves and it feels like it's just a moment that's really happening. But as soon as you get into story mode or expounding theme, it's a groaner because it feels belabored and very forced. This belabored feeling comes through in the other two acts more than the sense of realism.

(Also, Michael's appearance when he returns home bothers me to no end because its contrary to espirit d'corps. And I'm not in the military either.)

I have a feeling that Heaven's Gate will raise the same issues. I'm sure the scenes where it's just characters being themselves and not fulfilling any story and/or theme obligations will be just fine. But everything else will be groaners because it will belabor the point and remind you that you are watching something contrived.

The only real scene I've seen with Heaven's Gate is Nate's (Christopher Walken) "bloody introduction" that Criterion uploaded on their YouTube channel. As a whole, it's visually powerful and in particular seeing Nate's silhouette shadow through the hanging bed sheet and the settler in front of the split-open cow (Francis Bacon, anyone? =] ). But the editing of the scene bothers me because I think it could be made better. What I'm thinking of is after the gunshot, it cuts to that tracking shot of the settler's wife running toward him and kneeling beside him. After the camera stops, it continues to hold onto her kneeling before her now-dead husband and then it cuts back to Nate looking through the hole and walking away. The way it cuts between shots makes it seem that Nate was standing there the whole time and then decided to make the move. This makes him less stealthy than he could be and also drags it a bit longer than it should. When I looked it, I think a better edit will be: tracking shot of her running to her husband, *then* cut to Nate (preferably already walking away from the scene; though you could also have him looking through the hole for no more than a second and then turn to walk away) and *then* cut back to her crying. Just a few tweaks but it turns a clunky scene into a much better scene in terms of the narrative.

I really can go on about this but I'll wrap up by contrasting Cimino with one of his reported influences: Luchino Visconti. The comparison makes a lot of sense especially when you notice that both have a propensity to have deliberate pacing in their films. It's no accident that Cimino puts various dance sequences when you've seen the ballroom sequence in Il gattapardo. In spite of their similarities, there is a big difference between the two. Visconti was fully aware of how something works as a narrative and I attribute that in large part because he also directed operas. Likewise, working with opera also means you have to build up to a point using music and theatre. For Cimino - the man who supposedly studied painting at Yale - it's just about the visual and nothing more.

In short, Cimino took upon himself a lot more than he could handle. Yet there's a persistent delusion that he really is the greatest thing ever to happen in cinema.
Last edited by djproject on Sun Dec 23, 2012 12:54 am, edited 1 time in total.

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feihong
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Re: 636 Heaven's Gate

#199 Post by feihong » Sat Dec 22, 2012 11:57 pm

That's just silly. You've only seen the Deer Hunter, and you have the guy's number as a filmmaker? And for the record, I think you missed a great deal of what was going on in The Deer Hunter. It isn't just characters and plot. There's also the subtle, musical structure of the picture, the use of music to express the common feelings within a community, the complicated thematic material, the gentle sense of complicated feelings between people (between Streep and De Niro, for instance, or De Niro and Walken, or Streep and Walken, or De Niro and Savage). The pace of The Deer Hunter may seem deliberate to you, but it's remarkable to me how in so little a span of dramatic space Cimino is able to build a large community of people and create a sense of their hopes, their burdens, the places they have come from and the places they are inhabiting.

The same things come clear in Heaven's Gate. It's fairly clear from these films that Cimino does have great sensitivity with film (that is the quality I feel leaves his work for the most part after Heaven's Gate, and makes him seem a more common filmmaker--was it something that was forced on him, or did he lose whatever talent he had? I don't know). Back then, at least, he could place people in a place and have you understand so much about both place and people--he could invite you to imagine how things had come to be the way they were, which is not a skill that many filmmakers have in spades. Cimino's ego may be a sight to behold, and it may seem galling to some people, but there are ways in which it is justified, because he had so much more talent than so many filmmakers, and he covered such unique ground. I like to laugh at his ego, and I think it's hard to defend Year of the Dragon, The Sicilian or The Sunchaser as worthy of the guy who directed The Deer Hunter, but he did more in a few pictures than many directors have done in a whole, extensive oeuvre.

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Re: 636 Heaven's Gate

#200 Post by Yojimbo » Sun Dec 23, 2012 12:26 am

feihong wrote:That's just silly. You've only seen the Deer Hunter, and you have the guy's number as a filmmaker? And for the record, I think you missed a great deal of what was going on in The Deer Hunter. It isn't just characters and plot. There's also the subtle, musical structure of the picture, the use of music to express the common feelings within a community, the complicated thematic material, the gentle sense of complicated feelings between people (between Streep and De Niro, for instance, or De Niro and Walken, or Streep and Walken, or De Niro and Savage). The pace of The Deer Hunter may seem deliberate to you, but it's remarkable to me how in so little a span of dramatic space Cimino is able to build a large community of people and create a sense of their hopes, their burdens, the places they have come from and the places they are inhabiting.

The same things come clear in Heaven's Gate. It's fairly clear from these films that Cimino does have great sensitivity with film (that is the quality I feel leaves his work for the most part after Heaven's Gate, and makes him seem a more common filmmaker--was it something that was forced on him, or did he lose whatever talent he had? I don't know). Back then, at least, he could place people in a place and have you understand so much about both place and people--he could invite you to imagine how things had come to be the way they were, which is not a skill that many filmmakers have in spades. Cimino's ego may be a sight to behold, and it may seem galling to some people, but there are ways in which it is justified, because he had so much more talent than so many filmmakers, and he covered such unique ground. I like to laugh at his ego, and I think it's hard to defend Year of the Dragon, The Sicilian or The Sunchaser as worthy of the guy who directed The Deer Hunter, but he did more in a few pictures than many directors have done in a whole, extensive oeuvre.
Year of the Dragon' is a guilty pleasure for me: but it notably provided John Woo with some action set-pieces
(as did 'The Deer-Hunter')

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