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Heaven's Gate: The 2nd Director's Cut by TM2YC

TM2YC

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I've been a cautious fan of Michael Cimino's much maligned November 1980 mega-flop 'Heaven's Gate' since I saw a rare beat-up old print of the "1st Director's Cut" at the NFT in June 2011, as part of their Jeff Bridges season. It was in terrible shape, with a washed out and faded image and a damaged and almost unlistenable soundtrack. Despite that, it was clear that this wasn't the utter train wreck that reviews would have you believe. There was wonderful material in there but the overiding impression I got, is of a Director in-love with that material and unable to countenance cutting even a frame of it. This cut was pulled from cinemas after a disastrous week at Cimino's own insistance, he asked for more time to cut the film again. The film was just far, far too long with characters allowed to walk in silence for minutes from one side of the screen to the other, without any kind of strict editing in evidence.

porteparadis2.jpg


Then I heard about the "2nd Director's Cut" and tracked down a copy on the rare 'La Porte Du Paradis' French DVD. This is the 2.5 hour cut that Cimino spent a further 6-months editing. It was, as of April 1981, Cimino's preferred final and definitive cut, featuring scenes recut in a different order and many alternate angles and takes.

636_BD_box_348x490_original.jpg


Fast forward to November 2012 and Criterion worked together with Cimino on restoring 'Heaven's Gate' in glorious HD. But 30 years later, no doubt indulged by Criterion, he did not restore his "2nd Director's Cut". He restored the full "1st Director's Cut" (Almost frame-for-frame), now claiming this was his original vision. The Blu-Ray booklet contained hardly any mention of the film's troubled production or it's disastrous reception, probably to give the film a fresh start for viewers today. What was also omitted from the booklet was any mention at all of the "2nd Director's Cut". It is merely mentioned in one line that there was a later and shorter cut and this new cut is Cimino's cut, leaving the unknowing reader to conclude that the studio cut the film down, to make it more commercial and to try and claw back some money, as is so often the case.

After getting the Criterion Blu-Ray for Christmas that year, I was amazed at how stunning the film looked and I could perhaps sympathise with why Cimino found it so hard to cut the film down. However I tried several times throughout 2013 to do a heavy fanedit, which I intended to call 'The Johnson County War'. But everytime I would get stuck halfway through, it was so hard to choose what should saty and what should go. On the third attempt I gave up, promising one day I'd cut this thing into shape and make the material shine.

14060026747_aefd2c4943.jpg


Fast forward again to April 2014 and semi-retired Film Director Steven Soderbergh posted his own fanedit of Heaven's Gate' on his blog. He dubbed it 'Heaven's Gate: The Butcher's Cut', cleverly alluding to a notorious film term, evoking the opening scene and the simple fact that he had sliced it exactly in half length-wise. He seems to have done what I couldn't yet bring myself to do and been merciless, ruthless, creative and most importanty discaplined with his edits. Sadly he based his cut on what looks like a bad DVD transfer of the already bad looking print I saw back in 2011.

History waffle over, on to the project details...:p

I'm going to try to recreate Soderbergh's fantastic cut using the Blu-Ray as the source. If possible I will reproduce it frame-for-frame. I think this is the cut that this film has always deserved, so it needs to be seen properly at the same quality as the "1st Director's Cut". Plus, spurred on by how excited I am by Soderbergh's cut, I'm also going to try to remake Cimino's lost/erased-from-history "2nd Director's Cut" in HD. I will also base this on the Blu-Ray but for any alternate takes and angles, I will have to fall back on SD footage and upscale it the best I can.

Two fanedits for the "price" of one! :lol:
 

TM2YC

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A little test of my HD remake of Soderbergh's cut. This is the 'Stock Growers Meeting' scene, which Soderbergh has cut it in half, from 4m52s, to 2m35s. It was quite tricky to recreate, as he's used shots from all over the scene in a different order.


(Password: fanedit.org)

^ The audio is from Soderbergh's encode. I won't work on editing the higher quality audio until all the visual cuts are in place.
 

Vultural

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Soderburgh's edit was a trim 700 MB.
I started the capture, then stopped when I noted the size.
And no, I don't mean to be a filesize snob, but it struck me as lame.
Editors here seem to take more pride in their work, or maybe it was a legal issue.
700 MB is the traditional size for burning to CD, and something I associate with that P Bay site.
 

TM2YC

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Vultural said:
Soderburgh's edit was a trim 700 MB.
I started the capture, then stopped when I noted the size.
And no, I don't mean to be a filesize snob, but it struck me as lame.
Editors here seem to take more pride in their work, or maybe it was a legal issue.
700 MB is the traditional size for burning to CD, and something I associate with that P Bay site.

Soderbergh's site mentions "2006", so he might have made it 8 years ago when home software was more limited, processing power was less and bandwidth wasn't so fast. It's also possible that he is streaming a low-res version, to deflect legal questions, as you say. But whatever the answer, an edit based on the source he has worked from, is going to have limitations on image quality.

By the way...

It occurs to me that anybody wanting to fine-tune their fanediting skills, might find it worthwhile getting a copy of the 'Heaven's Gate' Blu-Ray. On this site, we editors often struggle to squeeze in our changes amongst already tightly edited sequences, without being noticed. But 'Heaven's Gate' offers the possibly unique opportunity to edit from what, to me at least, feels almost like unedited "rushes", or an assembly cut. However this is a 4-hour assembly, polished to a fine Hollywood standard. Editing HG is probably more akin to traditional film editing, than fanediting... which is maybe why I've found it so bloody hard! (Respect to pro editors :)).

If 10 different faneditors had a go at this, I'd bet none of the results would even be vaguely similar. You could probably edit a whole new movie out of just the scenes that Soderbergh has cut out :-D.

Oh and the awesome making of doc (One of the best ever films about films IMO)...

 

Aztek463

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Have you considered reaching out to Soderbergh while working on this? I'm sure he's a busy man, but wouldn't it be awesome to get some input and/or feedback from someone as big as he is? It certainly wouldn't be the first time someone from the industry got involved here.

There's a fan edit on the site called "The Crow: City of Angels - The Second Coming." The director of the original film saw the edit and loved it. Now, I know the circumstances for this one are a bit different, BUT I bet if Soderbergh took the time to edit the film once, he might be game to do some input on a new version of it based off his work. Food for thought. :)
 

TM2YC

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Aztek463 said:
Have you considered reaching out to Soderbergh while working on this?

Maybe... I'll think about it but probably not 'til this is done.
 

Aztek463

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TM2YC said:
Maybe... I'll think about it but probably not 'til this is done.

Fair enough! It would certainly be cool to see him comment on the project. :) I'll make point to watch HG sometime soon. I always love films with some juicy history!
 

theslime

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I've always been really, really interested in this movie, but it was never really available in any decent-looking form when I was studying film history. Nowadays, the very thought of a four hour movie is enough to make me fall asleep, so I'm very interested in this! ;)
 

TM2YC

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When I said above "If possible I will reproduce it frame-for-frame", I meant just that.

This is because the Blu-Ray is based on Cimino's "3rd Director's Cut" and Soderbergh's cut is based on Cimino's original Cannes/New York "1st Director's Cut". However, the two are almost identical, with some shots being a frame longer and some shots being a frame shorter. But I've noticed at least one small difference...


(Top video original / Bottom video Blu-Ray cut)

As you can see, Cimino has added a little zoom+pan onto Walken's face. So this will be one shot that will be noticably different in my remake.
 

Vultural

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The BluRay looks filthy.
Reminded me of when Coppola overhauled Bram Stoker's Dracula.
 

TM2YC

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Vultural said:
The BluRay looks filthy.
Reminded me of when Coppola overhauled Bram Stoker's Dracula.

"Filthy"? If you mean 'dull looking' in that ^ clip I posted? I had a setting wrong and it's been sorted, so will have the correct contrast in the finished edit.

In other news, I've finished converting the '2nd Director's Cut' PAL DVD into a lossless file slowed down to film speed, ready to edit into the Blu-Ray footage. The image quality is FAR below that of the Blu-Ray, so hopefully I don't have to use too much footage from it...



(^ Click to see fullsize comparison)
 

Vultural

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I clicked for full size.
If yours is the top, it's a whole lot better.
Nicely done.

The bottom view looks like a sandstorm blowing through.
 

TM2YC

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Dammit! :x

I've found one shot that is in Soderbergh's 'Butcher's Cut' (That is based on the '1st Director's Cut') that isn't in the 'Blu-Ray Cut'/'3rd Director's Cut'. It is in the '2nd Director's Cut' but is 20 frames shorter, so I've cut that in to my timeline (For now at least). But I'll need to think if buying a 3rd copy of this film (The original '1st Director's Cut') just to get those 20 frames is worth it :-D... and considering the image quality is probably unuseably bad anyway.

Here is a clip where I've cut the missing shot back into the Blu-Ray footage where it originally went in 1981 (See if you can spot it, I bet you can ;-))...


(Password: fanedit.org)

^ I've done my best to try and match the colours into the surrounding footage and have added a little sharpening too.

Here is a comparison of a frame from the shot...



Let me know if you think I've got the colours right. It's a shame Cimino cut this shot from the Blu-Ray, as it's a nice moment for Billy and Canton. I can see the argument for removing it though as it detracts from Canton's face-off with Nate.
 

TM2YC

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ThrowgnCpr said:
the color correction looks really good to me

Thanks and I'm passed the one hour point now :)...



Recreating another edit is an odd yet fun experience. I can almost feel the narrative becoming clearer and more logical as I work my way through Soderbergh's cuts :).
 

Brumous

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Colors are good and the pace is fine without those 20 frames. It's neat how a single shot like that can change the emotional tone of the whole scene.

Probably we all ought to recreate Soderbergh's fanedit, for a training exercise in the art of fanediting.
 

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I would love to see in your cut the waltz between Ella and James after the roller skate dance ...Soderbergh left this out and I find it highly emotional. One of my favourite scenes of all time.
 

TM2YC

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hillbilly74 said:
I would love to see in your cut the waltz between Ella and James after the roller skate dance ...Soderbergh left this out and I find it highly emotional. One of my favourite scenes of all time.

I agree, it's one of my favourite scenes and a beautiful moment (A "moment" in a Michael Cimino film is defined as several minutes without dialogue :p) but since Soderbergh has cut it, it won't be in my recreation of his cut. However, it's ruthlessly cutting stuff like this that makes Soderbergh's version work so well, in my opinion.

FYI Y'all this is the scene we're talking about (Somebody uploaded it to YouTube)...


vlcsnap-2011-05-25-23h21m14s44.jpg


Factoid Alert!: Yes that is Grammy-Award winning music Producer T-Bone Burnett in the 'Heaven's Gate' band :). One of several films he's done music for, that have also had Jeff Bridges in them.

This evening I've been working (With great difficulty) on one of the later action scenes, which Soderbergh has cut much more rapidly. Sometimes only hanging on a shot for a few frames and when some frames of his encode from that scene look like this...

14113860768_7442edca4a.jpg


..it's kinda difficult to tell which frames go where :lol:.
 

hillbilly74

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I understand...still that You Tube post works so well on its own...I wonder if we will get to see it on MTV. LOL.
 

TM2YC

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My method for remaking this has been to synch Soderbergh's cut on one lower video track, with the Blu-Ray cut on a second higher video track (Set to 50% transparency). When the two go out of synch I know there has been edit and I edit the BR footage to bring it back into to synch.

Last night completely by accident I noticed that something interesting had happened in the timeline... The very end of Soderbergh's cut, which features a flashback to Jim's revels as a younger man at Harvard... was playing underneath the final battle from the BR cut.

So in one video we have:

1. The rich and priveliged cheering and clapping, dancing and getting drunk.

and in the other we have:

2. The poor being slaughtered by the rich cattle barons.


Strangely, many things synch up including:

- The rich tossing term papers / The poor tossing molotov cocktails
- The rich riding riding carriages for pleasure / The poor riding them for their lives
- The rich appearing to waltz round the bodies of the dead poor people
- The credits and music beautifully soundtracking the long emotional shots after the battle
- etc

I imagine this is no accident and that Cimino intended these things to echo each other. But usually they are seperated by about 3 hours of film, so they are much less clear.
 
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