Review Date: 1.08.06
Although Brokeback Mountain has, by now, probably been reviewed to death, I notice it's still filling the theaters with audiences-especially straight ones, now that a lot of the gay folk have seen it twice-and I think it can't hurt to keep talking about it a little while longer. I'm struck by the fact that according to the New York Times, Brokeback Mountain is inaugurating a new era of right-wing and conservative Christian film commentary, since rather than ignoring, boycotting, protesting or otherwise condemning the film outright, Christian conservative popular culture commentators are actually reviewing it. Second, the film secured an R rating, which is miraculous; there is sufficiently explicit gay sex to warrant the usual NC-17 for films considered explicit but not pornographic. This means more people will see it than might otherwise be the case. It's also based on a story by a good writer, adapted by a good screenwriter and delivered into the hands and eyes of a wonderful director: Ang Lee. Finally, it's about the west-Wyoming to be exact-and about cowboys and a way of life that is compellingly nostalgic for many Americans. All these things add up to one powerful movie.
As a work of art, it's exquisite: the music, the colors, the landscape, the acting, the rhythm and tempo-everything is perfect. Ang Lee has done more for gay love-maybe for love in general-in this one small film than the slew of gay-themed romance flicks have been able to do. I long for the day a director does filmic and narrative justice to love between women the way Lee has done justice to love between men. And under his direction, the two already stunningly handsome and sexy actors, Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger, give performances of a lifetime. But what's even better is that the women act well too and not once do I sense a hint of condescension toward them, even when they find themselves unwitting victims of a neglect they only slowly come to understand and only accept because they have to.
As a story that spans close to 20 years of two men's lives together (or rather not together, which is what partly supplies the pathos of the story), Brokeback Mountain runs the gamut from a kind of spontaneous and exuberant youthful passion to the difficult attachment of two people who have labored for a long time to sustain an intimate friendship and a romantic commitment to each other. It stages the conflict between the utopian impulses of romantic love and the weight of the reality principle and movingly shows how two people negotiate them with mixed success. It does not say that the only obstacle is social, though that would have been an easy road to travel, even as it does not underestimate the social liabilities-and even lethal consequences-of the risks Ennis Del Mar (Ledger) and Jack Twist (Gyllenhaal) take. It does not make them heroes, though it bravely and remarkably unsentimentally shows how heroic a certain kind of passionate love can be. It is a film that confers depth on its characters even as it revels in the fantasy of love as a force of nature. For its beauty, its difficult truths, and its sheer art, go see Brokeback Mountain. Looking for trouble at the movies, for KUSP and the film gang, this is Carla Freccero.