Movie Details

In 1979, Michael Cimino went from being a director with one obscure Clint Eastwood action film and a handful of television commercials to his credit to one of the hottest talents in Hollywood, all on the strength of one film, The Deer Hunter. A multiple Oscar winner, a box-office success, and a controversial critical favorite, The Deer Hunter made Cimino a director to watch, and United Artists, a studio in need of both critical prestige and a box-office blockbuster following the departure of their longtime management team, signed up Cimino for his next project, a historical Western drama called The Johnson County War. However, by the time the film reached theaters in 1981, Cimino had exceeded his shooting schedule by nearly a year, the budget had swelled to a then-scandalous 40 million dollars, and the movie had a new title, Heaven's Gate. Originally premiered in a version running nearly four hours, Heaven's Gate was savaged by American critics, and had developed a reputation as a nearly total disaster before it went into wide release in a 160-minute edit. As one might expect, the film was a box-office flop, and the bad publicity and financial debacle led Transamerica, United Artists' parent company, to sell the studio later that year, essentially putting them out of business. Steven Bach, one of the United Artists executives who oversaw the project, wrote a book about the making of the movie, and Final Cut: The Making and Unmaking of Heaven's Gate is a documentary adaptation that looks at where Cimino's ambitions and United Artists' management style went wrong, as well as asking if the meticulously crafted film is the unmitigated disaster it's chalked up to be. Final Cut: The Making and Unmaking of Heaven's Gate was screened at the 2004 Toronto Film Festival, where it was shown in tandem with a restored print of the 220-minute cut of Heaven's Gate. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi