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.