Sunday, January 29, 2006

I don't often write about books or movies, but have been seeing more films than usual lately due to a combination of this service and this venue. Without really having expected such an intense response, I've become one of those many viewers who was emotionally jolted by a viewing of Brokeback Mountain. Everyone seems to have read something of their own lives into the film, but it's not always from the same page.

The characters of Ennis and Jack in Brokeback Mountain come from families that seem fine-tuned to breed loners. Ennis witnessed the results of a neighbor's fatal gay-bashing as a child because his father forced him to look at the body; later, after his parents' deaths, his older siblings make no room for him in their own lives. Jack's parents, finally seen at the end of the film, have the worst nightmare of a cold, lonely marriage imaginable. (A scene between Jack's mother and Ennis is a masterpiece; two people who have stomped on their own emotions in self-defense throughout their lives understand each other perfectly while exchanging very few words.) Ennis essentially remains a loner; when the movie closes, he's a divorced man of forty who has presumably had sex with one man and two women in all his life, and has left all of them hurt and bewildered by his remoteness. Jack is the sexual "force of nature" that becomes the movie's tagline; when he can't have Ennis to himself, he's enough of a risk taker to not only seek out male prostitutes, but (at least by implication) to charm both men and women into bed closer to home. However, the two men love, and truly confide in, only each other.

In my own extended family, there were no fewer than six men who lived with little or no intimacy in their lives -- none of them ever married or openly dated, had children, made many friends, or seemed to experience real familial warmth with their other relatives. I know nothing about the sexual orientation of any of them. I can only presume that among them, there were some who would have most easily loved women, and some who would have been more likely to love men. If an omniscient being slyly told me only that, say, three were straight, two gay, and one bisexual, I would have no clue as to which ones were which. They gave no hints while alive -- possibly not even to themselves -- and left none behind when they died. But, narrowly defined sexual labels wouldn't have been what mattered. It's simply that there were people in there -- six humans that no one may ever have known.

At any rate, the broken-record folk wisdom has become that Brokeback Mountain isn't just a "gay movie". While the story absolutely depends on a same-sex love affair, the folk wisdom happens to be true. The difficult part is coming back to reality after being so absorbed in that story for only a little over two hours. On a much lighter note, it's almost fun, at least for someone with my particular chronological advantage, to watch Heath Ledger turn 40. (Jake Gyllenhaal's makeup people weren't quite as talented, but it doesn't really matter.)


At 12:59 AM, Anonymous Rebecca said...

I was okay with Jake's makeup. I like the idea of Jake Gyllenhaal always being superfine. The cheesy mustache I could've lived without. Though it does kind of fit that character's later life. I would like to see Brokeback again. Maybe it's back in Toledo since it seems to be making steady money.

At 9:01 PM, Blogger Julie said...

They're both incredibly attractive men, to be sure. It might just be that I saw Jake Gyllenhaal as a high-schooler in The Day After Tomorrow (okay, it was on a trans-Pacific flight and I'd already watched Shrek 2 twice) and it's easier for me to think of him as a young guy made to look older merely by means of gray haircolor in his mustache and sideburns. I really didn't remember that Heath Ledger is about the same age; I was thinking of him as being 10 years older than he really is. The camera lingers repeatedly on his face, and one can really see the fine lines that one would expect on the skin of a fortyish man who worked most of his life outdoors. Then again, he's a fair-skinned Australian who probably spent lots of time in the sun as a kid anyway -- maybe the real makeup job was disguising the premature lines in the "young Ennis" scenes!


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