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February 11, 2006

Brokeback Mountain

I don’t go to many movies. It’s easy, too easy for me to get swept into the story as if it were fact rather than fiction and I don’t like the feeling of getting my emotions jerked around. I knew I had to see Brokeback Mountain (I didn’t want to lose my gay card), but I waited a while, deliberately until I was feeling in a very good mood, as I knew it wasn’t a film I wanted to see were I feeling low.

Good thing, that. I made it through fine to the final scene. The movie moves slowly and deliberately with the artifice of storytelling. It's Hollywood, but Hollywood at its best. The gorgeous location shots were filmed in Kananaskis Provincial Park in Alberta. It makes me want to see the Canadian Rockies. I’m a weeper at shows, can’t do much about it. I cry at the end of Giselle, La Sylphide, Swan Lake, hell I cry at the end of West Side Story Suite. It's as much cued by the subject as it is by music; the right progression of chords and there I go. I was mostly dry-eyed until that final mournful theme was played, and then . . . waterworks. I bundled my jacket collar up and left the theater in a hurry.

The thing I came away from Brokeback with was sadness at Ennis (Heath Ledger) being so beaten by circumstance from the start that he couldn’t even imagine a life where he was happy. All the characters deserved better from their lives. The movie opens up the short story by Annie Proulx; to me the biggest liberty they take is slightly changing the circumstances at the end. The movie adds an incident; Ennis gives up work to attend his daughter’s wedding. Hollywood needed to add a glimmer of hope, and put Ennis’ final enigmatic line “Jack, I swear. . .” into context. It could have been a hell of a lot worse.

I watched it for the sex too, which was minimal. Unlike other gay men, I didn't find the rough ease of their first sex implausible. It isn't usually that fast, but it can be (Too Much Information, but my first was like a hot knife into butter. After that, it was another matter.) It's never said overtly, but Ennis and Jack's masculinity is another can of worms for gay culture. What are we looking for when we're attracted to another man? Often, it's their maleness. And the unspoken corollary is that we ourselves, or any gay man who isn't butch, are not man enough.

The line that echoed in my head on the walk home wasn’t from the movie. I involuntarily fix movies in my head. The perfect non-butch fix would have been for Cowgirl Glinda, the Good Witch of The West in heels and spurs, to ride into camp and tell Ennis that he had been wearing the fucking ruby slippers the whole damn time. I wanted him to say yes to the possibility of being happy. The last line from Ulysses was what stuck in my head. It’s completely out of context but it was what I wished for anyone in that untenable situation.

Yes I said yes I will Yes.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at February 11, 2006 11:25 PM

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It’s good to see a tearjerker where for once you don’t feel as if the tears are being jerked – there's no sense that the filmmakers are pummeling you with poignancy until you give in. (I caved when Ennis finds his old shirt in Jack’s closet.)

I was also touched, for some reason, by a little scene early on where Jack tries to cruise the rodeo clown. He thinks he’s being so subtle, when he might as well be using signal flags. It's a nice moment for Gyllenhaal.

Posted by: Alison at February 13, 2006 4:19 PM

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