Saturday, April 08, 2006

Brokeback Mountain


Here's my late report on Ang Lee's wonderful Brokeback Mountain.

I have nothing special to add to the discussion of how wonderful the movie is, how honest the performances are, how beautiful the cinematography is. So, I'll just say, if you've not seen it, I recommend it highly. If you haven't seen it, suffice it to say, I recommend it and be warned I'll be speaking about details of the story from here out that may be better learned from the movie itself.

Ok, my one real complaint about the movie itself, and it's fairly small, is that I didn't think they did a very good job establishing that the beginning was 1963. Except Randy Quaid, nothing in it felt like 1963. I think they fell into a desire to invite us into the characters in a very neutral, universal way and also show us the kind of timelessness of the rural west. Unfortunately, I think that made the transition into the later time periods more awkward than it needed to be.

My bigger complaint is about the hype surrounding it. It seems like too many gay groups are joining the anti-gay groups in keeping the in a kind of gay ghetto. By making the argument that it should have won the Best Picture Oscar about it's subject matter, a fairly ludicrous notion considering how many major awards it did win, they've reduced the story to the same simplistic "gay cowboy movie" terms that the special features show the creative forces so against.

I found what Jim Emerson said in Brokeback: 1.4 million DVDs quite appropriate, "Damn, I forgot about that Brokeback agenda. What was it again? That falling in love with someone outside your marriage can have ruinous consequences? That society places strict restrictions on how, and with whom, people in love can behave, and that you pay a price for transgressing those rules? Oh, wait, maybe I was thinking of 'Madame Bovary.' Or was it 'The Age of Innocence'? Or 'The Portrait of a Lady'? 'The Scarlet Letter,' maybe?"

Yes, I do understand, the movie is a kind of a landmark in gay characters being portrayed in a movie of this size and popular acclaim. However, it's success is based entirely on it being something richer and more universal. That landmark will fade and disappear if we don't keep those aspects in the front.

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