Hold onto yr hats, its about to get a little bit gay in here…
A few friends and I recent re-watched Brokeback Mountain, and I’ve been jonesin to post some reflections about it ever hence. What I need to make clear from the get-go is that this movie, as most folks who’ve seen it have proclaimed, was never about gay cowboys in Wyoming. But neither was it about tragic hate-crimes or marital infidelity. What people seem to forget is that this movie has everything to do with the mountain, and the open spaces of wilderness to which good ol Jack (“Nasty”) Twist, and Ennis Delmar retreat over the many years of their long conflicted romance. I think of Brokeback as some kind of desolation cinema, which, far as I know is not an actual term, but I’ll explain more what I mean. And besides, the propensity to make up words is why God (or Al Gore) invented blogs in the first place.
Frak. I still don’t know how to embed music, so y’all are just gonna have to play this youtube track to set the mood while I continue (you may want to hit play again and mute the sound for the first of the two videos below. not Mariah’s best work…)
I first saw Brokeback several winters ago in the theaters with one of my bestest friends. It was a matinee show on a Friday, and we were among a handful of people in the vast dark theater, seated smack in the center with a gigantic screen stretching from what felt like the Ben Franklin Bridge to the Walt Whitman (Bridge). Something about the vastness of the empty theater, the sweeping landscapes of the silver screen, and the booming acoustic riffs from the action-movie-gage speakers fucking pummeled us emotionally beyond what was already bound to be a pretty tragic film. When it ended, I squeezed squer hand and we meekly wept through the credits.
In case you haven’t ever seen the film, here’s a typical post from the IMDB
What an extraordinary accomplishment! Ang Lee presents us with something we’ve known about but we’ve never seen. Profoundly honest, stunning to look at, superbly acted. I could go on with the superlatives because I feel lifted by the experience. You’ve all heard the ins and outs of the subject treated here. Well, forget it, the words used are used words and do not apply here. “Brokeback Mountain” introduce us to something utterly new, daring you and me to be indifferent. The film is about us, really. Love as an unexpected blow that makes you find and confront yourself. Jake Gylenhaal gives a performance that you’ll never forget. Michelle Williams and Ann Hathaway are incredibly good but the film belongs to Heath Ledger. I’m not going to talk about revelations or Oscar buzz, I’m just going to let you know that what he does in this film is so courageously beautiful, so truthful and so transcendental that his Ennis del Mar is bound to become a point of reference not just for us but for generations to come.
Meh. I mostly agree.
Anyways, by time my friend and I were halfway home in my car we were sobbing and carrying on (and laughing at how ridiculous we were being) at every red traffic light. (for added affect we were listening to the Weakerthans Left and Leaving which I had taped from vinyl to cassette on playback with the volume pretty high). For those of you who aren’t famils, its pretty up with with the roster of saddest albums God & Al Gore ever co-invented.
I continued to listen to sad folk/country, depressing alt/country, and more Rufus Wainwright than I care to admit, for the duration of the weekend, not cuz I was in a funk, but because I was savoring the beauty of the film, meaning, both the plot/character development, and the breathtaking cinematography. So this is where cinematography meets cartography. Not only was Brokeback not about a coupla two-beer queers (a pair of “deuces” as the Brokeback ranger dude dubbs them) from Wyoming, rather, the movie eloquently maps the saga of two bisexual sheepherders in Absaroka (pronounced “ab-SOAR-kah”). So where the frak is Absaroka?
Just a little slice of northern Wyoming and South Dakota with a shaving of southeastern Montana. A territory with its own regional culture, and a failed bid at being the 49th State of the USA! (ps-You gotta check out this multi-media NYTimes piece about the state that never quite made it).
hmm. that song might be over by now. Try this:
Okay, back to my point about desolation cinema. The magic wrought by Ang Lee is that he managed to stretch a short story (what is it like 60 pages or something?) into a 3 or so hour long film, without really adding that much extra dialogue to the screenplay. I mean, all that extra space in the film is taken up by having us (the audience) gape at bears, and streams, and mountains for a few hours while the characters themselves retreat into their own wilderness of a heartfelt man on man love that the social web around them is unprepared to accept. Brokeback, simply put, is two men, in love, in the Mountains.
If you’ve only seen the movie once this is probably not what stays with you. For many folks the film seems to be saying “don’t be gay, people will kill you” or at least “itsn’t it just terrible that some people are so hateful and intolerant?!” For me however, the movie is a nod to the way in which two similarly gendered people, given space away from societal bullshit, were free to fall in loves. The tragedy in my mind wasn’t so much the loss of Jack, but the fear of Ennis to follow his
libido heart as it were, and shack up with Jack Twist as homos for life.
The first video highlights how Jack and Ennis were totally crushed out, like sittin in a tree K-I-S-S-sodomy… (forgive the harsh Mariah Carey overture. Go play that Weakerthans song while you watch this video. The times basically coincide)
This one drives home the pain that is cultivated from harboring fear and regret:
At the end of the day I think Brokeback is about courage. We should see it as a call to get over our internalized normativities and march fourth as badass champions unafraid of speaking out or consensually smooching.
the world is yrs,
here, listen to this as you continue surfing through the blogosphere:
the last last one
ahem. Courtesy of my Hollywood insider connections: