January 16, 2006

Brokeback Mountain - a good movie, but is it a fair contender?


Brokeback Mountain, a novel by Annie Proulx the Pulitzer Prize winning writer, is now a motion picture that was released just a few days ago. The movie is a sensitive portrayal of two lonesome individuals who find love together in the picturesque wilderness of Wyoming. Unfortunately for the two, they are living in the 60s, and they are both males. Ang Lee pulls audience heart strings at various moments in the movie, but as far as the underlying theme of the movie is concerned, Lee takes a back seat and lets the audience decide that. Understandably so, because the subject being dealt with still makes audiences feel uncomfortable. It's credit to Lee's evocative film making that the audience's moral filters are lowered enough to let the two protagonists steal their way into the hearts of the viewers. Interestingly enough, after the lights came on, this elderly couple next to me, visibly touched by the movie, walked out saying, "I am not condoning what the two did, but..."

On a different note, this movie is a likely Oscar contender, as many heart rending social-message-carrier movies have been in the past. Here's what Ang Lee told the NYT's Karen Durbin about why he chose to make this movie:
"When I first read the story, it gripped me. It's a great American love story, told in a way that felt as if it had never been done before. I had tears in my eyes at the end. You remember? You see the shirts put away in the closet side by side."
The sentimentality that the story exudes almost anaesthesizes the audience into an amoral trance, and Ang Lee picked on this right away and decided to make Brokeback Mountain, the movie.

Brokeback Mountain will be in the reckoning with movies such as Munich and Syriana that were also released this year. Needless to say, the latter two may not even make it into the early rounds of the Oscar selection process. The reason being that movies such as Brokeback Mountain make for unfair acclaim in art. Even though the movie is above average and may deserve recognition, it carries an unfair advantage with the judges who are not always mature critiques of art. Touchy-feely movies that are a shade well-made can go very far with some judges, and that's what Ang Lee knew, and that's how Brokeback Mountain will edge ahead of other equally good movies at the Oscars. A thinking individual who is also a lover of art would ponder whether the acclaim a movie achieves is based on its cerebral content that makes the viewer 'think', or is it in its ability to get viewer faucets flowing and 'touch' the audience. Maybe it's a combination of both...

I must admit that I haven't read Annie Proulx novel on which the movie is based, and I'd be curious to know how the movie compares with the novel. However, Brokeback Mountain, the movie, is definitely worth watching for its photography and it's heart rending story. It's depiction of the ordinariness of an extraordinary love relationship that was taboo in the morally stringent sixties, is so evocative that, besides the many tears it may bring, one hopes it will also make a dent in the restrictive demeanour of the present day viewers; make them less judgemental about issues that do not fall within the parameters of what society perceives as acceptable. As for the photography, it is absolutely breathtaking and could make Wyoming the next popular tourist resort.

12 comments:

Pacze Moj said...

I'm actually in a position opposite yours: I've read the short story, but I haven't seen the film. I find it a bit odd that the story was chosen to be adapted. To me, the main strength of Proulx's work is the telling, not the tale, so it'll be interesting how the film adapts that. From what you've written, it seems that Lee cranked up the sentimentality of a story that, I think, tried hard not to have any.

As for "the Academy", it'll be interesting to see how they pat themselves on the back for their "progressive" impending nomination and celebration of a "gay movie"; because if there ever was a "safe" one to celebrate, Brokeback Mountain is it -- adapted from a well-known novelist's work, with well-known actors and a made by a known "artsy" director.

Whatever the merits of Brokeback Mountain as a film, the marketing-created connection between it and homosexuality will likely overshadow other, good works that also deal with the issue (such as this year's Tropical Malady) and propagate the false idea that homosexuality has never been dealt with in cinema before. And that'll be a shame.

Jaimie said...

I haven't seen it yet but I want to. Yes, it is up against movies that are so completely different, so I don't know.

I haven't seen it, but I didn't doubt its excellence when I read about it.

sonyared said...

Thinking about checkin' it out...

Id it is said...

pacze moj,
'the main strength of Proulx's work is the telling, not the tale' It's interesting you say that because the only innovative (?) aspect in the telling of the tale was in the very first and the very last shot of the movie, other than that the focus was the tale itself.
I haven't seen "Tropical Malady', but now I certainly will.
Thank you for those insightful comments

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Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Haven't seen it yet.

Invincible said...

i havent even heard of this movie nor the novel.

your review looks good.

EXSENO said...

I was hoping that someone would give a review of it, I very much want to see it. I felt like it would be tastefully done.

Invincible said...

I drop by here everyday. New post please :)

Invincible said...

*fortnight*

Anonymous said...

8 nominations at the Oscars!!!

jedi said...

Just read the story. Here's the link.
http://www.geocities.com/jayadevambat/ brokeback.html
I was initially taken aback by the bold portrayal. But the story eventually moves you so much tht ive been waiting for the theatrical release of the movie..for days.There was not much of a chance of it getting released in India. But seems the oscar nomination would go in its favour