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Monday, March 30, 2009

Steven Bach's Final Cut

Steven Bach has died at 70. He was a film producer and later a biographer. He is perhaps best known for his United Artist disaster, "Heaven's Gate" and his surreal memoir of that experience in Final Cut, which I read with relish when it was first published in 1985. The full title is: Final Cut: Art, Money, and Ego in the Making of Heaven's Gate, the Film That Sank United Artists.

Bach was the executive producer of that film, trying to coral director Michael Cimino just after his five-Oscar film, "The Deer Hunter." Final Cut shows, with upmost candidness, how easily this argument works: you can't throw away $5 million to save $200,000, can you? And then again at 6, 8, 10...36 million, five times the budget. $36 million is chump change now, but then it was the first mega-movie and equally a mega-flop. I also remember Bach's descriptions of driving his entire cast daily (on the clock) for hours into the desert for a 1 to 2-hour shoot during the magic hours (the film- and photo-enhancing hours just before sunset). You couldn't help but like and commiserate with Bach after reading the book.

People stood in line early not to go to the movie, though. No matter how you sliced or diced the four-hour film, it was a western range war story with an unknown (in the U.S.) female lead. I didn't hate the film myself but Bach's book was far more riveting and successful. It's still in print (revised in 1999), or at least available at Amazon.com



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