BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (12/16/2005)
Director: Ang Lee
Cast: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Randy Quaid
My Rating: 10/10
Rotten Tomatometer: 87% Certified Fresh
PLOT: The story of a forbidden and secretive relationship between two cowboys, and their lives over the years.
“Brokeback Mountain” is the kind of movie that makes me wish I was a better communicator, like “Lost in Translation.” I know I love these movies, I know WHY I love these movies, but it’s difficult for me to put into words.
“Brokeback” is, of course, the movie that will forever be known among the snark peddlers as “that gay cowboy movie,” which is absurdly, insultingly reductive. That’s like calling Star Wars “that space movie.” To reduce the movie in those terms is to totally ignore the boundless riches to be had by watching it, I mean REALLY WATCHING it.
For one thing, damn, just LOOK at it. Look at the way the skies fill the frame, hanging heavily over the mountains and the dusty streets and the trailer parks. Director Ang Lee makes the sky into a tangible character all its own, much like Kubrick did with the Overlook Hotel. It infuses every outdoor scene with a sense of the largeness of the world around us. (A poet I am not, like I said.) It’s a fitting backdrop for the intimate story presented to us. In fact, those huge scenic backdrops are kind of a throwback to the ‘70s, to the films of Cimino and Arthur Penn and Bertolucci, when painting a picture with the camera was two-thirds of the story. Virtually every outdoor scene in “Brokeback Mountain” is worthy of framing in an art gallery. Stupendous.
Yes, the movie turns on the story of two men who unexpectedly and passionately fall in love in 1963, a time when gay love was still taboo, at least in polite society, and ESPECIALLY in any given cowboy community. But as the story winds its way through almost twenty years in the lives of these men, it becomes less about the FACT of their affair, and more about the enormous sense of yearning and loss that comes from desperately wanting something that you can’t have. Who among us has never felt that kind of insane desire? Not necessarily for a person, even, but for anything at all? A crippled man who longs to walk, or a blind man who yearns to see. A dream job. A dream vacation. That’s what this movie is about.
Heath Ledger delivers the performance that really put him on the map. His portrayal of Ennis Del Mar is incredibly subtle, although his Western accent flirts with impenetrability at times. I love the way he shambles and mumbles through his role, virtually the entire movie, which pays off in that fantastic scene by the lake (“I wish I knew how to quit you!”) when this hulk of a man is torn down by his own unspoken passion.
Again…I’m not a poet, or really a true writer, so this really doesn’t quite get at the mood generated by the movie. It’s no feel-good film, that’s for sure, but it’s worth seeing by anyone who loves world-class storytelling. Don’t let anyone, or your own preset notions, steer you different.