HIDDEN GEMS: 18. BAMBI

Hidden Gems brings to light little known film gems which have somehow slipped through the collective cinematic consciousness. This week Bambi. You’re welcome.

Of course we all know that cartoons can’t be films. Not really. Those assholes at Pixar have tried to convince us otherwise. But we all know. That thing with Tom Hanks’ voice isn’t really. Ity’s just a picture. And so it goes. Before Pixar there was a studio called Disney started by Walt Disney, a guy famous for being not too keen on the Jews. But when he wasn’t not liking the Jews he was also busy drawing pictures of shit. One day he’d been trying to draw a mouse but kept fucking up the hand, not getting the right number of fingers. He knocked the whole pile off the desk and as they fell to the floor he noticed that the different pictures fluttering in sequence looked like motion. ‘Money!’ he shouted.

Bambi was one of his first movies and nobody has ever seen, but it is really worth hunting down. Oh, shit that’s actually not appropriate given…

So, Bambi tells the story of a deer, like the animal, growing up in the forest. His friendships with the other animals, evading the dangers of fire and hunters, dealing with parental death and it’s for kids. I know a cartoon about animals. No wonder it flopped. The film is beautiful to look at and really moving. Years later Michael Cimino was to remake it but from the perspective of the hunters. His film was a disaster because he tacked on a load of stuff about the Vietnam War. Disney disowned it in the end.

So Bambi. Give it a chance. Not bad.

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HEAVEN’S GATE: REVIEW

 HEAVEN’S GATE: REVIEW – Michael Cimino once told me he made The Deer Hunter, then immediately began production on Heaven’s Gate after only a day or so in-between.

Once that was done, he’d been making films non-stop for three full years, but at the end of it he finally knew how to make film. He had become, he said, a film director. Problem was, no one would ever give him the artistic freedom to make one again.

Heaven’s Gate passed into legend as the film that sank United Artists, a behemoth production that after 6 days of shooting was 5 days behind schedule. Inaudible dialogue, a confusing plot and an epic Western released in 1980, it would come to epitomise the end of an era for big ego auteur excess and (it has to be said) some pretty high quality New Hollywood product. But the remastered, re-edited and reissued blu-ray and DVD, which I first got the opportunity to see at the Venice film festival, is a revelation. 

Kris Krisofferson plays Jim Averill, the Havard educated Marshal who finds himself in the middle of a violent dispute between the new immigrants from Europe hoping to settle and the cattle barons who see them as a pest and will use any means to be rid of them, including murder. Old friends and new loves are caught up in the violence as Averill tries to see justice done even while the law and the guns are on the wrong side. 

The cast is stellar: Christopher Walken, Sam Waterson, John Hurt, Isabelle Hupert, Jeff Bridges, Joseph Cotton and a young scene stealing Mickey Rourke. Cimino’s eye for a set piece is as  grandiose and anarchic as the West he seeks to portray. If there is confusion and noise here it is because the subject is in a state of becoming, torn by conflicting needs and loyalties. Cimino’s revisionist Western is the whisky drunk cousin to Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, a dark and pessimistic view of American history. 

I won’t say it’s perfect, but as far as flawed masterpieces go, it’s one of the best.