Heaven's Gate (Z Channel Presents)
DIRECTOR: MICHAEL CIMINO
CAST: KRIS KRISTOFFERSON, CHRISTOPHER WALKEN, JOHN HURT, SAM WATERSTON, BRAD DOURIF, ISABELLE HUPPERT, JOSEPH COTTEN, JEFF BRIDGES
Like McCabe, one of the defining “revisionist westerns,” and the ultimate film maudit, a historical panorama that begins in Harvard Yard then plunges into the dust and tumult of Wyoming in the 1890s, a could-be paradise riven by greed, rapacity, class conflict and open aggression between settlers and land barons. Leading up to a climactic recreation of the bloody Johnson County War, Cimino and his once-in-a-decade cast spin out a tale of tragedy and tenderness, incredibly rich with lived-in period detail.
Original Z Channel Notes:
"In December of last year, 'Z' exhibited Michael Cimino’s controversial $42 million epic film in its original 3-hour and 40-minute length. Prior to that time, the full-length version of the movie had only played for one week in 1980, in a single theater in New York City! What’s even more extraordinary is that after our showing of the film in December (which according to the media was an unqualified success of an unprecedented event), the film virtually hasn’t been seen anywhere else in the United States since!
For those who missed it, and for those who have requested it, we are proudly encoring Cimino’s epic American western.
The plot of Heaven’s Gate is centered around the Johnson County Wars of the 1890s, battles which took place between the moneyed cattle barons of Wyoming and the immigrant homesteaders who sought their own share of the American Dream. Employing considerable dramatic license, Cimino details the efforts of the cattlemen (headed by Machiavellian Sam Waterston) to wipe out the immigrant community of Sweetwater, ostensibly to stop the continual rustling of cattle.
Caught in the middle of the struggle is Sheriff Jim Averill (Kris Kristofferson), who, though of patrician birth and upbringing, is a principled man and does not take sides along class lines. When events build to an extremely violent climax, however, he can no longer remain in the middle.
Although Heaven’s Gate may be simplistically seen as a battle between the rich and the poor, this is by no means the film’s true intent. Its theme is not so much political as it is personal, the depiction of the individual’s attempts to transcend his own origins. Just as Averill seeks to escape his Harvard background (magnificently detailed in the film’s opening), Nate Champion (Christopher Walken), an enforcer for the cattlemen, endeavors to move beyond the poverty and ignorance of his upbringing. So does Ella (Isabelle Huppert), the beautiful woman loved by both men, who refuses to abandon the durable but disreputable life she has labored to build for herself."