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"Heaven's Gate" looks great on Blu-ray!,
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This review is from: Heaven's Gate (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Yesterday was the first time I had ever seen Michael Cinimo's infamous film "Heaven's Gate", watching it on the newly released Criterion Blu-ray. Before buying it, I read countless reviews complaining that the movie's image quality was too faded, too washed out, too sepia-toned. (Famed critic Roger Ebert described the look of the film as "so unfocused and so brownish yellow that you want to try Windex on the screen." He went on to say, "A director is in deep trouble when we do not even enjoy the primary act of looking at his picture.")
Well, if that was the case before, it certainly isn't now. Everything on screen is sharp and crystal clear. The colors are rich and vibrant. If there wasn't indisputable proof that the film I watched and the film reviewers criticized for its bad picture were one and the same, I would never have believed it. The cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond is lush and dazzlingly gorgeous, making almost every shot look like a great painting. Far from being unable to enjoy "the primary act of looking at [the] picture", as Ebert put it, I wanted to savor and drink in as much of its beauty as possible.
The sound quality, however, is very poor in some places. Dialogue can be drowned out by background noise, like when characters are in a busy street. Apparently, it was always like that. It isn't a distraction through the whole film; in fact it only seems to happen in a few scenes. But some of those scenes are near the beginning and are crucial to hear in order to understand what is to follow. Keep the subtitles handy.
The film itself, I think, is underrated. It has flaws, the most evident of which is its slow start. (Be warned if you haven't seen it: The film takes a LONG time to pick up steam.) But it has merits that some of its harsher critics turn a blind eye to. Along with the magnificent cinematography, "Heaven's Gate" has a haunting score that creeps its way into your soul. It has characters I found to be compelling, played by actors who range from competent to truly brilliant. Kris Kristofferson suits the role of the burned-out, world-weary sheriff with lost roots in wealth and privilege. Christopher Walken is perfect as a hired gun working in the interest of ruthless cattle barons: When you see him commit murder in his first scene, you think he's going to be this immense antagonist. As the film unfolds, you realize he's more than some villain. One of the best things about "Heaven's Gate" is the way it gives Walken's character so much depth, allowing his inner contradictions and emotions to gradually emerge. Also, I thought Isabelle Huppert did a great job as the bordello madam who is the object of both these men's affection. She brought energy, liveliness, and vivacity to the role. I cared about her character and what might happen to her.
Oh, and John Hurt is awesome as always. His part is small, but he steals just about every scene he is in.
This is a beautiful Blu-ray release of a very divisive film. If you are going to experience "Heaven's Gate", this is the best way to do so. Give it a chance. You may like it. You may hate it. At any rate, the film has its place in cinema history and should prove an interesting experience for you.
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Initial post: Nov 26, 2012 2:47:04 PM PST
This was a title I personally sent a request to Criterion to put out some years ago and glad they finally have. I was sure though that they would include the documentary on its making, 'FINAL CUT', but much to my chagrin they have not. A very welcome release nonetheless. Hopefully they will get to ZABRISKIE POINT sometime in the future.
Posted on Nov 28, 2012 4:36:21 PM PST
Douglas E. Kerr says:
It is so sad that Amazon does not separate the reviews between a VHS, DVD or remastered BD version of a title! Mixing them all up does no one any good, not the seller, not the product, and certainly not the shoppers. If a grocery store stocked its shelves this way no one would shop there! Thanks for a good review of the actual product, the Criterion BD product that I am going to buy thanks to you! Doug
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 9, 2012 12:41:03 PM PST
I assume you do know that you can search reviews for "blu".
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