Tuesday, February 12, 2013

"Heaven's Gate" with Kris Kristofferson and Isabelle Huppert (1980)

I remember watching this movie in the theater when it was first released. The film was panned at the time as being too long. And; at 216 minutes; it is lengthier than most movies of that time; or anytime. And this is the director’s cut; which boasts some added footage of the barren, and cold, area where this story took place. So, bring a jacket.

I believe that the director’s intention was to portray the stark and lonely aspect of what is was like to live on the prairie, where there was not much to do. Time would naturally have dragged itself on in an interminable way. To that extent, the director has captured the feel of the times in an excellent fashion.

The movies premise is a good one, and the choice of actors is really diverse; with screen legends such as Joseph Cotten playing alongside of such relative newcomers like Sam Waterson and John Hurt. This movie has a lot to offer if you are willing to devote the time to watching it. And Kris Kristofferson is at his best as the Harvard educated U.S. Marshall who attempts to take on the cattle barons in this epic based upon the real life Johnson County War of 1892. It’s a fascinating piece of our history. You might want to Google it sometime.

Briefly, the whole problem was that there was an influx of new settlers who had been lured to the area of present day Wyoming by cheap government sponsored land. These would be settlers were mainly from Eastern Europe and spoke little English. The land they had bought was also being used by the cattle barons to graze their herds for free. When the settlers moved in, and the crops didn’t grow, these people were hungry. In order to survive they began to steal cattle. In order to protect their own interests, the Cattlemen’s Association offered a $5 per day stipend, plus a $50 bounty for each of the 125 men on the “list” of those to be executed. No trial, no law; just a list of individuals to be killed.

Great acting by all; including a very charming Isabelle Huppert, who plays Ella, a local prostitute who is lover to both Marshall Kris Kristofferson, and the cattle baron played by Christopher Walken; make this film watchable, even if you are watching the clock during some of the second half.

A good film; reminiscent in many ways of “Lawrence of Arabia”, another film which was re-released in a director’s cut. That film took place in the desert rather than the cold winter of Wyoming. For that film, take an extra bottle of water. 

No comments:

Post a Comment