Final Cut: Art, Money, and Ego in the Making of Heaven's

I read lots of books about the moviesbut this one s my favorite. After seeing a reissued director s cut version of Heaven s Gate, the movie so expensive to produce and so poorly received by the critics in 1980 that it destroyed Michael Cimino s reputation as a director and led to the demise of United Artists, I sought out this book by one of the United Artist producers involved in the project and who also lost his job in the aftermath It s a fascinating story How could Ciminio who had just come from making The Deer Hunter, which netted him Academy After seeing a reissued director s cut version of Heaven s Gate, the movie so expensive to produce and so poorly received by the critics in 1980 that it destroyed Michael Cimino s reputation as a director and led to the demise of United Artists, I sought out this book by one of the United Artist producers involved in the project and who also lost his job in the aftermath It s a fascinating story How could Ciminio who had just come from making The Deer Hunter, which netted him Academy Awards for best picture and best director have created such a mess Heaven s Gate vastly exceeded its budget, was visually spectacular but had a poor sound track and story itself verged on incoherence at times Why did United Artists let him do it This book tells the story in great detail and Steven Bach was a fine writer The most interesting parts, however the Cimino story gets lost from time to time in Bach s efforts to paint a comprehensive picture of United Artist s glorious history it was founded by Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks as well as describing the Hollywood system of movie making in general I found myself skipping parts But, that being said, it s a great read and a fabulous story of hubris and Hollywood finances A long look at the chaotic making of Heaven s Gate and the downfall of a Hollywood studio, Stephen Bach s Final Cut is absorbing, detailed and messy After all, the downfall of United Artists is often blamed on the singular failure of Gate, but as Bach s book shows, there was a lotit than just that.The book offers several points where had UA acted differently, they might still be in business They range from everything from the unique contract they gave Gate writer and director Michael Cim A long look at the chaotic making of Heaven s Gate and the downfall of a Hollywood studio, Stephen Bach s Final Cut is absorbing, detailed and messy After all, the downfall of United Artists is often blamed on the singular failure of Gate, but as Bach s book shows, there was a lotit than just that.The book offers several points where had UA acted differently, they might still be in business They range from everything from the unique contract they gave Gate writer and director Michael Cimino to a string of executives leaving the company to a number of risky but high yield bets failing on them They weren t just gambling on Gate being a success they were hoping it d be part of a number of successful movies And nothing quite panned out But maybe it wouldn t have made a difference if these pictures did get made and were successful UA, as Bach paints it, was a chaotic organization, headed by a CEO who didn t inspire his underlings and was marred by in fighting between executives, who constantly complained about being undercut and conspired against It s sometimes hard to keep track of who s who in Final Cut because so many people quit, get fired or just change jobs Those coming to Final Cut looking for a detailed look at the making of Gate will be a little disappointed It s a book about how one of the major players in Hollywood fell apart and was sold It s not a behind the scenes look at a movie, although it does have the occasional glance, like Cimino banning people from the set, working long hours and shooting millions of feet of film and relentlessly battling executives over his schedule and budget All in all, Final Cut is a fascinating look at the inner workings of a movie company how it interacts with the bosses, with directors and producers and how, in so many words, the sausage gets made Recommended for film fans A largely self serving account in which Bach tries to remove himself from blame at a time when Heaven s Gate was seen as the last word in movie failures Ironically, Heaven s Gate stands up today as a major, underrated film whose failure says a lotabout changing tastes in the blockbuster era than it does about Cimino s ambitions. Heaven s Gate is probably the most discussed, least seen film in modern movie history Its notoriety is so great that its title has become a generic term for disaster, for ego run rampant, for epic mismanagement, for wanton extravagance It was also the film that brought down one of Hollywood s major studios United Artists, the company founded inby Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, D W Griffith, and Charlie Chaplin Steven Bach was senior vice president and head of worldwide production for United Artists at the time of the filming of Heaven s Gate, and apart from the director and producer, the only person to witness the film s evolution from beginning to end Combining wit, extraordinary anecdotes, and historical perspective, he has produced a landmark book on Hollywood and its people, and in so doing, tells a story of human absurdity that would have made Chaplin proud I think Bach, the author of this, overestimated the fascination non movie executives would have for business deals that movie executives make, but it s certainly extremely well written and perceptive about movies What really makes this book interesting is the film that it s about I saw the full 3 hour 39 minute version of Heaven s Gate on MGM recently and so picked up the book and there s no doubt in my mind that it s a major work, one of the most beautiful movies ever made It throws up I think Bach, the author of this, overestimated the fascination non movie executives would have for business deals that movie executives make, but it s certainly extremely well written and perceptive about movies What really makes this book interesting is the film that it s about I saw the full 3 hour 39 minute version of Heaven s Gate on MGM recently and so picked up the book and there s no doubt in my mind that it s a major work, one of the most beautiful movies ever made It throws up the ancient question of do you need to care about the characters to enjoy a film I didn t remotely care about any of them but for me the 3 and a half hours flew by because the film is so alive This conundrum is articulated really well in the book Bach is fully aware of the visionary nature of the work he is sanctioning, but he s also in horror at the level of indulgence required to produce such a singular vision, and he can t find the mental equilibrium required to get a handle on the situation And so Cimino one of the most mysterious men in Hollywood history pursues his vision all the way There s no doubt the result is worth seeing, and the book is good too FINAL CUT deserves its reputation as a canonical work about the movie business Author Steven Bach was an executive at United Artists in the 70 s, when UA was arguably the best run studio in Hollywood TransAmerica Bank acquired UA in the late 1970 s on the basis of that success, but unfortunately all it took was one bad gamble to bring the whole thing down That would be director Michael Cimino s HEAVEN S GATE project which I ve never seen and apparently is actually pretty good, but in any even FINAL CUT deserves its reputation as a canonical work about the movie business Author Steven Bach was an executive at United Artists in the 70 s, when UA was arguably the best run studio in Hollywood TransAmerica Bank acquired UA in the late 1970 s on the basis of that success, but unfortunately all it took was one bad gamble to bring the whole thing down That would be director Michael Cimino s HEAVEN S GATE project which I ve never seen and apparently is actually pretty good, but in any event went five times over budget, bombed at the box office, and managed to drag down everybody associated with it Imagine a horrific train wreck that happens over two and a half years this book gives the blow by blow Bach is actually a very smart author, and he does not spare himself part of the blame for HEAVEN S GATE s failure, although he saves the sharpest barbs for Cimino s pathological and egomaniacal behavior Lots of great 70 s era Hollywood anecdotes and inside baseball about the film trade make this an engaging and worthwhile read If you re looking to hear about what happened during the making of Heaven s Gate, don t look here This isof a history of United Artists diary of Steven Bach s time there, and while he was involved in Heaven s Gate, it wasn t very closely and it was all on the deal making end of things, not the movie making one It is fairly illuminating as a look into the business end of the movie business and Bach isn t a bad writer but one can only read about so many meetings and at a little over 400 pa If you re looking to hear about what happened during the making of Heaven s Gate, don t look here This isof a history of United Artists diary of Steven Bach s time there, and while he was involved in Heaven s Gate, it wasn t very closely and it was all on the deal making end of things, not the movie making one It is fairly illuminating as a look into the business end of the movie business and Bach isn t a bad writer but one can only read about so many meetings and at a little over 400 pages, nearly 200 of which go by before filming starts on Heaven s Gate, maybe he should throw less stones about editing things down to a reasonable length Still, if you want a book about the business of film production that actually focuses on the business of film production and not lurid personal stories like The Kid Stays In The Picture or You ll Never Eat Lunch In This Town Again, Final Cut has some solid value and is plenty readable A book for cinephiles, Final Cut impresses not just in its marvellous wealth of behind the scenes detail but in its deep objectivity I was expecting to read a book lambasting writer director Michael Cimino and his film, and while it at times does that, the portrait that emerges is of a very gifted yet uncompromising for good and bad director and a film that became a flashpoint in the media not only for itself but for an entire industry Of course, my own view of the book is colored by the f A book for cinephiles, Final Cut impresses not just in its marvellous wealth of behind the scenes detail but in its deep objectivity I was expecting to read a book lambasting writer director Michael Cimino and his film, and while it at times does that, the portrait that emerges is of a very gifted yet uncompromising for good and bad director and a film that became a flashpoint in the media not only for itself but for an entire industry Of course, my own view of the book is colored by the fact that I think Heaven s Gate is an unqualified masterpiece, but Final Cut is a constant reminder that most art has to be by nature a compromise between an esoteric clashing of ideas and a reaching out to a public that craves to be entertained Disappointing expose on the making of the 1980 Michael Cimino epic box office bomb HEAVEN S GATE Although author Stephen Bach was Senior Vice President of Production at the studio that made HEAVEN S GATE United Artists, and had been with the studio through the many trials and tribulations of making the movie, Final Cut Art, Money, and Ego in the Making of Heaven s Gate, the Film that Sank United Artists serves as only a cursory account of what really happened.What happened, per the author, Disappointing expose on the making of the 1980 Michael Cimino epic box office bomb HEAVEN S GATE Although author Stephen Bach was Senior Vice President of Production at the studio that made HEAVEN S GATE United Artists, and had been with the studio through the many trials and tribulations of making the movie, Final Cut Art, Money, and Ego in the Making of Heaven s Gate, the Film that Sank United Artists serves as only a cursory account of what really happened.What happened, per the author, was a series of fearful miscalculations that led to a strong willed, enigmatic, brilliant Oscar winning director getting his way to the point of a 220 minute, 44 million dollar over 100 million dollars today western that the New York critics hated, that the general public didn t care for, nor had a an interest to go out to the theater to see Half of the blame goes to Stephen Bach and the other United Artists executives who allowed it to happen The other half of the the blame goes to the ambitious yet egomaniacal writer director Michael Cimino, who is portrayed in the book as a talented yet irresponsible and uncooperative spoiled child Despite Stephen Bach s position at United Artists, his responsibilities on HEAVEN S GATE were at a considerable distance Yes, he and UA exec David Field green lighted the picture, and made decisions about production issues Yes, Bach had meetings and phone calls with writer director Michael Cimino Yes, he had at least one visit to the HEAVEN S GATE set, and had a say in post production But the fact is, Bach was mostly based in NY, then later LA, while the production was shot in Montana, Idaho, and England He was not the day to day executive on the picture, nor did he have time to do so.As a result, only about 60 percent of Final Cut Art, Money, and Ego in the Making of Heaven s Gate, the Film that Sank United Artists actually has anything to do with HEAVEN S GATE Perhaps for lack of material, Bach instead devotes the rest of the book to the history of United Artists, and the motion picture industry in general, as well as his dealings with Woody Allen and Barbara Streisand, in addition to his time spent on projects with Peter Sellers, Truman Capote, and Gay Talese that ultimately never got made What the drama involved with purchasing the screen rights to Talese s non fiction book Thy Neighbors Wife had to do with HEAVEN S GATE is a mystery to me On a positive note, some of Final Cut Art, Money, and Ego in the Making of Heaven s Gate, the Film that Sank United Artists is engaging and entertaining in its insider look at the movers and shakers circling around and within Hollywood When Stephen Bach is focused on HEAVEN S GATE, and goes into detail about how this or that happened, the book shines.Where Final Cut Art, Money, and Ego in the Making of Heaven s Gate, the Film that Sank United Artists, fails is in Bach s over indulgent, intellectual, overly literate prose, which displayed the characteristics of a disciplined scholar looking at history from a detached distance This is all well and good EXCEPT for the fact that the author himself played a part in that very same history, and had an inside information as to what went on Bach seemed torn between literary aspirations, historical study, and just writing about what had happened as he experienced it The result a book almost as misguided and indulgent as HEAVEN S GATE itself What a shame Final Cut: Art, Money, and Ego in the Making of Heaven's Gate, the Film That Sank United Artists


About the Author: Steven Bach

Steven Bach was senior vice president and head of worldwide productions for United Artists studios In Final Cut Dreams And Disaster in the Making of Heaven s Gate 1985 , Bach chronicles his involvement in the troubled production of Heaven s Gate 1980 , a film widely considered to have been the decisive reason for the financial bankruptcy of United Artists.Bach is the author of The Life and Legend of Marlene Dietrich and Dazzler The Life and Times of Moss Hart He taught film studies at Columbia University and Bennington College.His biography of the Nazi associated filmmaker Leni The Life and Work of Leni Riefenstahl 2007 overturns many of the claims Riefenstahl put forward in her self defence regarding her contact with Hitler s regime, and was named by the New York Times as one of the most notable books of 2007.Bach died of cancer in March of 2009 He is survived by his companion, Werner R hr.


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