Like the release from constipation (Thematically speaking)

23 Mar

When Michael Cimino tackled the monumental task of filming his follow-up to “The Deer Hunter”, the odds were stacked in his favor. Armed with a crew of experts, willing financial backers, an adoring studio, a cast of actors (John Hurt, Kris Kristofferson, Isabelle Huppert, Christopher Walken) suitably gritty and brilliant for a film born in the height of the ‘70s auteur boom, and an audience waiting, dry-mouthed from excessive drooling, for the next “Cimino”. The film, of course, was “Heaven’s Gate.”

An almost unmatched mess from start to finish, “Heaven’s Gate” needn’t have been the fuck-up that helped up-end the real Golden Age of American cinema and ushered in the all-too-welcome blockbuster buddies who ruled the ‘80s with neon reflecting, mono-syllabic heroes and high (as a fucking kite) concepts. But it was. It signaled the death rattle of the Movie Brats and facilitated the vicious, bloody birth of the Brat Pack and those of their ilk. How could this be? Cimino, a celebrated filmmaker with the twin abilities of wrangling an epic and exuding intelligence and honesty within the tiniest of cinematic moments, managed to sink the Titanic and make way for all the James Camerons to do it all over again. So, how? How? How did this happen?

Could it be the success that came with “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot” and “The Deer Hunter” that made a measured artist into a self indulgent monster? For the sake of argument (well, this argument) let’s say that was the case. Ambition is occasionally vilified, but mostly revered, while ones that create something that is referred to as over-ambitious, are always viewed as failures or villains. And, generally, one would be correct to think that. But is it not deserved in certain cases? Can the artist not expand beyond themselves and risk failure? If the artist has kept themselves from indulging in the most maniacally obsessive ideas gestating inside of them, can it not be birthed as soon as success supplies the lubricant necessary for a difficult delivery? Can one earn a career changing disaster and can one learn from it? I say he/she is allowed. Cimino earned his Hindenburg.

What of those who haven’t earned it? Speaking in terms of South African art-as-entertainment (which I find myself being part of; and if not, then desperately wanting to be part of it), the scene seems to be crowded with untested self-indulgent maniacs and fuck-ups. A hopping, exciting joint it may be, but populated by way too many craftsmen who over-indulge in themselves and their ideas without ever learning that small truths and (God help me) stories about normal people are the stuff cinematic, theatrical and literary dreams are made of. Fine artists make their own canvas frames in order to paint their masterpieces. Without that frame, the painting would not exist. There will be no masterpiece. There will only be a good (maybe, if you’re lucky) idea. And there will only be you, sitting in Tokyo Star or Gin or hanging out on Clifton 3 talking about how good you can be if only you didn’t have to work hard to make that goddamn frame; boring everyone around you without realizing just how fucking boring you’ve become.

So, I praise Cimino for making one of the greatest cinematic pig-fucks, albeit one of the most beautifully made, because at least he managed to bring “The Deer Hunter” into our lives. Perhaps we should start smaller. Or start smarter. Then we can make the masterpieces that allow us to screw the pooch.

2 Responses to “Like the release from constipation (Thematically speaking)”

  1. Adam June 16, 2011 at 17:40 #

    Right on Louis. For a great further breakdown and thoughts on this way of thinking listen to;

    Mr. McLaren started the Sex Pistols… need we say more about his genius?

  2. Curtissek April 8, 2017 at 20:06 #


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