Thursday, January 19, 2006

"Brokebutt Mountain" (Or, "I'm no movie critic")

Please don't be put off by the title of this post -- I like everything about the film "Brokeback Mountain" and I heartily recommend it, even to the most homophobic among us (well, if you live in the Southern United States and own a Confederate Flag you can safely await the edited-for-television broadcast). "Brokebutt" was merely the term that came to mind when the first rough-and-tumble love scene between the two male protagonists elicited a loud gasp from the woman seated behind me, as though she'd been kicked in the buttocks or something (and, well, yes, I couldn't resist the stupid play on words). She must have been the only person in the theater with no foreknowledge of the film's plot, and if that's true she can be pardoned for her outburst, as the scene is powerful and intense in its way.

In any case, my wife and I spent all of dinner after the movie and several moments during the following two or three evenings talking about the film, and even more time thinking about it, which is our unscientific barometer that tells us a) that we both liked the film a great deal and b) that the movie has some artistic merit coupled with probable broad public appeal.

For me, a somewhat normal hetero married guy with a left-leaning political bent, it took all of 0.3 seconds to accept as natural the unfamiliar image of two Marlboro Men wrangling furtively with one another's belt buckles, and to move on to enjoy the film's many rewards, both subtle and otherwise. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal are prefect in their roles, using more than the spare dialog to evoke seemingly genuine feelings of love and pathos with one another.

The tale's backdrop is almost as compelling as its plot, and the vast, empty, yet beautiful vistas of Alberta backcountry are the perfect symbol of the cultural vacuum the two men inhabit in pre-"gay" 1963 Wyoming (the film is set in Wyoming and Texas but much of the backcountry footage was shot in Alberta, Canada, I believe). But the backcountry also serves as a refuge for the two men throughout the film, one made safe by the absense of other people.

Chock-full of nuance, infused with emotion and foreboding and beautifully rendered in every way, if you haven't seen "Brokeback Mountain" I'd recommend catching it in a theater to better appreciate the film's visual depth and scale.

Interesting to note that none of the images on the official website hint at the film's central theme, but maybe that would give away too much to those who have not yet seen it.


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