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Final Cut: Art, Money, and Ego in the Making of Heaven's Gate, the Film that Sank United Artists Paperback – August 16, 1999
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From The New Yorker
The best account of American moviemaking in the age of conglomerate control of the studios.
"A landmark book on movies…must reading!" —Kirkus Reviews
"A compulsively readable account of adventures in the film trade. An intimate view of what goes on in the corridors of Hollywood power…distinguished by its awesome objectivity." —David Brown, The Zanuck Brown Co.
"Buffs will love this one…inside and fascinating looks at Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola, Peter Sellers, writer William Goldman, Dino De Laurentiis, Truman Capote, Martin Scorsese, et al." —Newsday
"A riveting, witty and essentially heartbreaking chronicle of a catastrophe…" —Peter Bogdanovich, director of The Last Picture Show
"One of the few indispensable books about Hollywood." —Jack Kroll, Newsweek
Top customer reviews
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The only quibble I have with Bach's book is that there are no pictures. Having pictures of the people involved with this film, and of the film itself, would have added tremendously to my enjoyment of this book.
In 2005, TLC network made a 90 minute documentary on the subject matter in this book, entitled "Final Cut: The Making and Unmaking of Heaven's Gate". There are extensive interviews with Bach, David Field, and numerous others involved with the making of the film (but not Cimino). Unfortunately, this great documentary film isn't available on DVD, but you can catch it on YouTube. I advise watching the documentary first and then reading the book.
One thing that can be fun (or frustrating, depending on how you look at tit) is that Bach often coyly avoids mentioning names of specific people or films that aren't directly related to the Heaven's Gate fiasco- particularly if failure or controversy are involved. He leaves enough breadcrumbs for knowledgeable readers to figure out what he's talking about, but I admit to being stumped several times. It can be rewarding to solve these little insider puzzles though, when you figure them out.
I'm very sad to learn that mister Bach has passed away because he was a true literary talent. I am adding the rest of his books to my wish list as soon as I'm finished with this mini review!
Cimino maneuvered the UA executives, including Bach, into making a movie they didn't believe in because they didn't believe in their own judgement on the script. They didn't step in when the production got out of control beecause they didn't trust their own judgement on what was happening on location in Montana. They didn't demand a proper edit of the movie because they didn't believe they could find any other talent to solve the problem. They didn't pull the movie because they didn't trust what their eyes told them: the movie was awful.
The above paragraph is harsh, and there are examples upon examples of studio heads pulling the plug on what became magnificent movies. These examples, however, are like fortune-tellers proclaiming their successes when they get something right. The fortune-teller did get that one prediction right, but no one remembers the hundreds of times that the fortune-teller was wrong because no one points it out, especially the fortune-teller. In Hollywood, the talent doesn't want the failure pointed out, and the executives don't either since their jobs are on the line.
None of the above is a criticism of this book. In fact, it gives a wonderful insight into how disasters like "Heavan's Gate" can happen. It is written well, and I came away with a much better understanding of the process by which movies get made. It also gives insight into the difference between honest artists who sometimes fail (Woody Allen, Martin Scorcese) and poseurs who bluff their way into creating disasters (Cimino).
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