We apologize if we’re a little irregular and scattered over the next few weeks â€” one of our colleagues left and we’re picking up her workload until they hire someone else, which is kind of putting a damper on our blogging schedule.
We’ve finally made it to the week of the most-hyped film of the year thus far â€” "Brokeback Mountain" is beloved to nearly all who’ve written about it as yet, and while we didn’t think it was perfect, we certainly liked it lots ourself. We’re in the process of writing a review with Matt to post later in the week, but in the meantime, a few thoughts:
We don’t buy David Thomson‘s half tongue-in-cheek thoughts that this is the grand cowboy-on-cowboy romance that was always waiting to burst out from beneath the coded subtext of "Rio Bravo," "Red River" and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (well, okay, scratch that last one), but "Brokeback Mountain" does derive much of its significant power from how it toys with that particularly cinematic American icon: the taciturn, masculine, denim-clad cowboy. The film is a romance between two people who stumble into a great love and simply don’t have the words for it. Heath Ledger, whose performance is every bit as good as it’s been talked up to be, plays Ennis as a man who can hardly find it in him to participate in conversation, much less be open in a relationship, and he’s heartbreaking, particularly in the scene when he first says goodbye to Jake Gyllenhaal‘s Jack. After rebuffing Jack’s attempt for a "same time, next year," he send him off with a nod, and then, after watching him drive away, runs to throw up in an alley and bloody his knuckles against the side of the building. Violence, physicality, and, with a refreshing lack of coyness, sex, are all things that come far more easily than words to Ennis. It’s the best inarticulate screenplay we can think of.
Also, it’s inherent to a romance to have interference â€” if people live happily ever after in the first half hour of a film, what are you going to fill the next 60-90 minutes with? And so misunderstandings occur, wacky hi-jinks ensue, one party thinks the other party can’t stand them, or is already attached, or is…something. In a way, "Brokeback Mountain" has more in common with, oh, "Pride & Prejudice" than any other recent romance we can think of, because at least in Austen, below all of the plot happenings, there is always the very real problem of societal differences to overcome. For years since the fading away of the aristocracy, filmmakers have wracked their brains to come up with new reasons for why two people would have such trouble making a connection when they ostensibly are in love, and here we finally arrive at what must be the unforced, undeniable obstacle of any tragic romance writer’s dreams. Love is never the issue in "Brokeback"; at the same time, we see the world Jack and Ennis live in, and never doubt that, even if they got to walk off into the sunset, hand in hand, it’d be impossible for them to live happily ever after.
Anyway, at indieWIRE, Strand Releasing’s Marcus Hu discusses waiting on the film since he first read the short story in 1997:
Personally, even after four viewings, I still get a lump in my throat by the film’s conclusion. While the "New Queer Cinema" has produced some substantial GLBT films, this film just feels like an intelligent, smart piece of cinema that happens to have at its core a gay love story.
At the Chicago Tribune, Robert K. Elder sums up post-screening questions fielded by Ang Lee and producer James Schamus, while Nigel Andrews in the Financial Times (link via Ray Pride at Movie City Indie) takes a look at "Brokeback" and Tommy Lee Jones‘ "Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" as neo-neo-Westerns.
+ First Person: Marcus Hu on "Brokeback Mountain" (indieWIRE)
+ Lee sees his ‘Brokeback Mountain’ as a unifying force (Chicago Tribune)
+ The Cowboy rides again (Financial Times)