So our little theatre in the middle of bumfuck nowhere finally actually got Brokeback Mountain recently. I suspect that this is related to the Academy Award nominations if has received, although I could be mistaken. I confess that in the beginning, I didn’t go to see it because I was working all the time. And then I didn’t go to see it because of all the hype.
I react to hype in the way that most self-respecting wannabe hipsters do–I automatically deem the hyped item “beneath me” and make smug comments about the destruction of art today, despite not having actually read/seen/interacted with said hyped item. If I didn’t behave in this fashion, I would be forced to turn in my union card as a wannabe hipster, and we all know that would be a tragedy.
At any rate, on Tuesday, mellowed by beer and several hours of caulking, it was decided to call it a day early and take a company girls field trip to go see Brokeback Mountain. This is in no way influenced by the fact that Tuesdays at the movie theatre are “Tightwad Tuesdays,” where all seats are three dollars all day, except for starred features. (To our dismay, Brokeback Mountain was a starred feature.)
The theatre was crowded with other liberal weenies like ourselves, and we settled in for some good old fashioned cowboy porn. A little over two hours later, we left, most of us surreptitiously wiping our eyes. I rested smug behind tinted lenses.
Now, it must be said that I greatly enjoy the work of Ang Lee. He has beautiful color sensibilities which lend an air of magic to his films. I loved Yin shi nan nu (also known as Eat Drink Man Woman) and Wo hu cang long (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). As anyone who has seen these films knows, Ang Lee has an amazing sense of beauty and staging, and certainly pushes the visual envelope a lot. I loved the use of color in Brokeback Mountain, I loved the wide visually sweeping images of Montan..er Canada that he employed. And that closing scene with the dingy trailer looking out across the bright colour saturated grassland…amazing.
I also loved his use of sound. I’m a sort of noise sensitive person. Lots of sounds annoy and irritate me, but I’m also in general more aware of sound, I think, than other people around me. And I loved the way that sound was used. There was sparse music, which made the use of music more powerful when it did occur. Every sound felt more…weighty, somehow. It’s sort of difficult for me to explain this. But I liked it.
Right, so what did I think about the movie. I liked it, a lot. It was a great love story, a great moral tale, and a beautiful movie. Although I didn’t much take to the way Jack Twist hauled that poor filly’s head around.
I can certainly understand grounds for offense–if you view homosexuality in the same way that I view Kraft Cheese, you would have been extremely upset by the graphic descriptions of grilled cheese…er sex in the movie. Yet I find the sex in het films usually more graphic and sometimes more offensive. Remember that scene in Monster’s Ball where Halle Berry is pulling her shirt off and writhing on the floor crying “fuck me, fuck me?” Yeah, that’s pretty graphic right there. Certainly what was going on in the sex scenes in Brokeback Mountain was obvious. But it was also pretty hot. Admit it. Both of the actors are gorgeous, and they had great chemistry onscreen. And depending on your sexual predilections, you might find the thought of two studly men wrestling each other and then having violent sex quite tasty. Or maybe not. Clearly there’s a large sector in American society that does not, for some peculiar reason, appreciate the beauty of the sex scenes, or there wouldn’t be all this controversy over the movie.
I thought Brokeback Mountain also painted a stark picture of a reality for a lot of people exploring their sexuality. Ennis was a man who was perfectly content with getting married, until he fell in love with Jack. Jack was a gay man living in a straight world. For Ennis, his struggle with homosexuality was complicated by being exposed to a violent gay hate crime when he was young. The eventual breakup of his marriage seems inevitable not because he is gay, but because he is in love with another person. I’m sure similar scenarios are played out in God-fearing Christian marriages on occasion as well, because love is a powerful thing, and I believe that was the strongest point Ang Lee made with the film.
Male homosexuality is a charged subject. I think had the film been about two cowgirls, or women living next door to each other, it wouldn’t have been met with such rage. Girl-girl action is accepted and embraced by a much larger sector of the population than boy-boy. The movie could also have been about a cowboy who falls in love with the rancher’s wife, breaking up a marriage and a friendship, and it still would have been a powerful film. But Brokeback Mountain touched a nerve. The cowboy is a masculine American icon. The movie was an assault on an American way of life. The strides that have been made for gay rights in the last few years are amazing, and I hope that they continue, but Brokeback Mountain is a good reminder that the struggle is far from over.
Remember Boys Don’t Cry? Remember how it was greeted as a powerful and groundbreaking and amazing film? Teena Brandon was a real person. So was Matthew Shepard. Both endured fatal consequences for their lifestyle choices, as Ang Lee suggested Jack Twist did.
I was also a big fan of Secretary when it came out, because it was the first mainstream bdsm positive movie I had seen, and was also a powerful love story. I note that Secretary wasn’t greeted with hatred, perhaps because it had a smaller release. But also because it was, at the core, a heterosexual love story. It just happened to be about heterosexuals with special needs, even though the characters struggled with them. Ultimately, both films were about love, and the choices and struggles we endure in pursuit of it.
How far would you go for love? Is it worth your life to you? I was left with these questions, among others, after seeing Brokeback Mountain. I would imagine others were as well, and that’s why it’s become such an instant hit, and not just among liberal weenies.