While I'm no great fan of HEAVEN'S GATE at any length I admired John Hurt's valedictory speech for being unusually period sensitive.... clearly based on material from the era, with archaic humor, it made you feel as though you'd be reeled back through time, which is what good historical movies should do.
Clearly Cimino had become enamored with the success of the pacing of The Deer Hunter and tried to replicate it in Heaven's Gate. I've always felt that if somebody gave me the raw footage, I could have turned it into a halfway decent (but far from great) movie. The entire endless Harvard sequence could have been done without and the film started with him on the train. The roller skating sequence is also entirely unnecessary. I just cut a good half hour right there with nothing vital to the plot that couldn't have been addressed through a couple of lines of dialogue (if not already accounted for elsewhere). Yes, he's rich and educated and an outsider. Yes, the townsfolk love to commune and have fun. So what?