I’m allergic to (i) hyped-up movies and (ii) “issues” dressed up as art, so I was quite prepared to dislike this. Instead I found myself caught up in Brokeback Mountain, one of the great cinema experiences— 24 hours later I’m still flying.
A movie with a place name in the title has situate itself and that ole peak is just there in every scene (even in those scenes shot away from the mountain). Aside from its metaphorical significance, the mountain exerts a physical pull on the audience, especially early on. This is one of the great camping movies (excuse the pun)—you can just smell that clean water and feel that big sky covering you.
It’s lazy writing, I know, but I have so much to say (and you have so little time), so here are a few of my memories of the movie—skip ‘em if you haven’t seen it:
• half bottle of whiskey going round the fire;
• Ennis del Mar’s’s wife’s face as he leaves on another “fishing trip”;
• “sit down you ignorant son-of-a-bitch” in the dispute over TV sport;
• the way Jack drives off with a few mumbles and no physical contact after a summer that will determine the rest of their lives;
• that arm coming over the blanket;
• the look of pride as Ennis sticks down the numbers on the mail box outside his trailer;
• how differences in financial circumstances have an impact on any relationship;
• “what you waiting for cowboy, the mating call?”;
• the final terrible scene as Jack Twist and Ennis del Mar discuss “November”;
• it could not have ended any other way--Willie Nelson singing “He was a friend of mine”, one of my favourite Dylan songs.
Was this a “gay” film? A couple of people told me today that you “could forget that it was love between two men”. In way I completely agree, straights like me love it because of its universal feel: haven’t you ever felt outside of society, yearning for something that is there and yet not there? And yet, it obviously would not have been the same movie without the love that dare not speak its name … Lemme know what you think .. there’s a comment button down there.
Wise guy postscript: As I said, the music is fantastic, but there is one terrible musical anachronism. At one point Ennis and his waitress get up to dance to Steve Earle’s “Devil’s right hand”. Huh? The film is very clear about its time period and this scene takes place in the late 1970s. Yet, as any self-respecting rock snob knows, this song was on Copperhead Road, released in 1988. The soundtrack was obviously assembled with care so I guess they held a meeting and said --”well, it doesn’t matter”. All I can say is—yes it does! It’s not even as though the song was “essential”, any old cowboy song would have done—there weren’t any of those back in the 1970s?
But how can I leave you with a downer?
Brokeback Mountain is a life-affirming experience. I'm still flying ...