the film snob

A cyberspace journal about my experiences as an NYU film school grad student, reviews of current and classic films, film and TV news, and the rants and raves of an admitted (and unapologetic) film snob.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Brokeback Mountain

I write film and TV reviews at Here are synopsis' and links to those reviews.

I saw Brokeback Mountain at the Telluride Film Festival in 2005. As we settled into our seats for a film few of us knew anything about, we were informed that the Venice Film Festival, running concurrently, had just called and asked us to delay the film for one hour to allow the world premiere to take place in Italy. Telluride agreed and while we all found ourselves with a bit more time on our hands than we'd anticipated, we also realized that we were obviously about to be treated to something special.

Yes, Brokeback Mountain is a gay cowboy movie. But to label it with such a broad, simplistic and frankly dismissive brush is to rob the film of its genuine power and depth. Because at its core, Brokeback Mountain is not a gay love story--it is simply a love story.

This is a tale of two people (not simply men), Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal), itinerant ranchers who meet on a summer sheepherding job in Wyoming under the shadow of Brokeback Mountain and fall in love. Constrained by society and their own guilty consciences, the two part ways, marry, and raise families. And yet their bond is so strong that it brings them together time and again, revealing a passion that, if anything, has grown across the time and distance. Tragically, in order for them to be together, they must derail the lives of their families in the reckless pursuit of their love. Some may call their love sin, but they cannot call it false.

Sad and melancholy, Brokeback Mountain is, in many ways, a tragedy. How many among us, nevermind sexual orientation, find true love? These men do, in each other, and can do nothing about it. Master craftsman Ang Lee's haunting, moving film is an examination of social and personal constraints and the churning passions that lurk underneath. No stranger to this sort of story, Lee exchanges ancient China and Victorian England for that most iconic of American scenes--the West.

Brokeback Mountain was an instant cultural touchstone when it came out, a breakthrough in mainstream cinema. Despite the banners, armies and agendas amassed on each side of the debate, Brokeback Mountain is, at its core, a simple, heartbreaking love story that is as universal as it is authentic.

Adapted by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana from Annie Proulx's New Yorker short story, Brokeback Mountain is composed of unparalleled acting, graceful and luxurious direction, and deep and abiding emotion--a universal and yet uniquely American love story.

To read the full review, click here.


Anonymous nate said...

Adapted by Larry McMurtry? I didn't know that.

5:11 PM  
Blogger Grinth said...

I'm not sure I would qualify it as a breakthrough in mainstream cinema. Gay relationships have been in mainstream cinema for quite some time, and as openly. I'm immediately reminded of Gods and Monsters as another example, but there are more.

I think Brokeback Mountain had the fortune of arriving at a time when the mainstream was more willing to accept a film of its nature, rather than capitalizing on anything 'revolotionary' in its subject matter.

That being said, I'm taking an Avant Garde course this semester, primarily focusing on american works from the late 40's to the late 60's (Cinema 16, Maya Deren, Andy Warhol etc.) and as a consequence most of the directors of the time (in avant garde) were gay.

This leads to a parallel discussion about queer/gay dynamics in film. Brokeback Mountain actually came about in a round a bout way in today's class. Not taking anything away from the film but the good point was made that while on one level its good that such subject matter can be considered in the mainstream (as opposed to being camaflouged, or represented in a generally negative stereotype...Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train or Rope for example) there is also something negative currently about the way mainstream portrays such subject matter, its an appropriation by people who generally have no frame of reference as it were.

At the moment I'm not sure I can adequately articulate exactly what I am saying, but suffice it to say I think there should be caution in patting anyone on the back for "embracing" such subject matter.

8:46 PM  

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