This is the minute that needs no introduction. Which makes this bit quite unnecessary really.
11 of 229 – The greatest minute ever captured on celluloid
I eagerly sit in my viewing chamber, remote at the ready. I’m about to witness the minute of Heaven’s Gate that Michael Cimino was most proud of. In fact, he believed it to be the greatest sixty ever seconds captured on film. I hit play and sit back. But something strange occurs. The DVD skips over the eleventh minute and moves straight to the twelfth. I rewind, skip back, press stop, mute and play, but nothing seems to work. I remove the DVD from the player, blow some dust from the surface (like that ever works), and notice something very peculiar. On the disk is a circle of microscopic black dots. I scratch and rub, but nothing will remove them. It becomes obvious what has happened. For some weeks I’d had the suspicion that I was being followed. I wasn’t sure by who or why, but it’s abundantly clear that one of Cimino’s goons has broken into my castle and altered my copy of Heaven’s Gate to stop me from viewing and reviewing the eleventh minute.
I ring all local video stores to try and rent Heaven’s Gate, but every copy in the suburb has been borrowed by a Mr. Omnici. My last hope is the local library, but I arrive to discover it has been burned to the ground.
I skulk home and find an odd note pinned to the drawbridge. The note is blank, but smells of lemon juice. I know exactly what to do. I take it inside and wave the note over a candle. It instantly bursts into flames and I’m left holding an incinerated letter and reeking of burned lemons. But what if the note didn’t hold a secret message, but was a clue? I run to my lemon cupboard and remove the largest. I calve it open. In the lemon’s centre is a microfilm. Without pause I rush to retrieve the microfilm projector I bought from a catalogue when I was seven and load the film. The message reads “meet me in the lemon cupboard”. I rush back to the lemon cupboard to find a man in a tweed jacket and leather slacks smoking a pipe. He takes a lemon and squeezes the juice over his head, all the while staring intently at me. Spitting juice as he speaks, the man instructs me to travel to an address in Auckland. I rub my eyes to wipe away the citric acid to find the smoking man has disappeared.
I board my private jet and head straight for Auckland, via Christchurch to do some shopping. The address is in the centre of Auckland, but the driveway to the house is some 40km long, winding through forests and mountain ranges. I eventually arrive at a decrepit wooden house atop a lonely hill. As I push on the front door it disintegrates into dust. Stepping over the pile of door dust, I enter the house.
In the corner of the room is a man who, like the man in my lemon cupboard, is smoking a pipe and wearing a tweed jacket. The only difference is that he is wearing shorts, long socks and one sandal. He welcomes me and expresses admiration of my bravery and choice of knitwear, though I’m not wearing any.
The man reveals his name to be Henry Splund.
“Why the secrecy?” I ask.
“Cimino has many spies – many, many,” he says in a hybrid New Zealand and Welsh accent. “His gaze is never far away.”
“Why is he thwarting my efforts to view the eleventh minute?”
“Michael is a sensitive man, very sensitive indeed – proud too! He regards the eleventh minute of Heaven’s Gate a great achievement. But as the film was panned, he believes the public not worthy to sit before the majesty of his eleventh minute,” explains Henry.
“That sounds a little extreme.”
“Oh, he’s mad as two shits.”
“Who are you?”
“I am but a man; a dedicated man and admirer of Mr. Cimino. I remember the first time I saw the eleventh minute of Heaven’s Gate I was so awestruck I was forever changed. When I heard Cimino had attempted to eradicate the eleventh minute from every copy and print of Heaven’s Gate, I couldn’t allow it, I just couldn’t! I managed to steal the minute from a film reel in the Cimino Library. I smuggled it here to my secret hideout to be restored and guarded. I guess you could call me the keeper of the eleventh minute. When I heard that you were to review… well, I was elated. But I know Cimino and his cronies would never allow it.”
“So you sent me a series of cryptic messages?”
“You know, I have a telephone?”
Henry ignores my reasonable point and opens a hatch in the floor.
“Come,” he says excitedly, “I must not delay you any further. It is time to see what you have come to see.”
Henry disappears down the hole and I climb through the hatch close behind.
As I follow Henry through a series of doors and long corridors, I become incredibly nervous. I’m essentially alone in an isolated area with solitary sandal wearing loon who has dedicated his life to sixty seconds of celluloid. Is he going to murder me? And surely the piece of film couldn’t be that good? We arrive at what I’d describe as a mini-cinema and what Henry refers to as “The Temple”. Fighting back a proud tear, Henry takes a canister of film and loads the projector.
I am incredulous as Henry threads the film – there is no way this obscene quest is going to be worth the effort. But as the projector fires up my scepticism is soon put to rest. The reel features John Hurt continuing to wank on about something, but it’s so… exquisite. My eyes refuse to blink through fear of missing one moment. The lighting, the costume and framing all come together in a visual orgasm. I hold Henry and we weep together at the sheer beauty of the eleventh minute of Heaven’s Gate. Bless you Cimino! Bless you!
How did we get here? Well, that’s a rather big question. Lets just start by reading parts 1-10 of Simon’s Heaven’s Gate review by clicking here.