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Thursday, January 19, 2006
Brokeback Molehill
Big deal.

It's kind of boring. Nothing much happens. Just a lot of horseback riding and cold cowboys supposedly bonding over cans of beans and shuffling around staring off-screen. I didn't ever get emotionally engaged. I don't even know what it was about really.

Ang Lee has done much better. The Ice Storm is a masterwork by comparison. At least in that film he created some cool visual imagery to heighten and echo the themes of the piece. In Brokeback, there doesn't seem to be a theme. It's as if the film is trying so hard to not make a statement that - what a surprise! - it ends up not saying anything at all.

Seriously, I really can't say what the film is about. Maybe something like, "Love happens when it happens and woe to you if you fall in love with someone you can't be with." Which really isn't any kind of good movie theme - not being universal -- and also being so obvious that we hardly need a movie to get us all on board with it. (A good movie theme is something that can be argued.)

In the end, I didn't feel like Brokeback was advocating homosexuality as a lifestyle. The sodomy episodes at the center of the film were rough and somewhat icky. There was definitely no attempt to make people who suffer from same-sex attraction look like better human beings than people with normal sexual appetites. Ennis and Jack come off as being shiftless, self-serving and dull-witted, without any of the "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" witty superficiality. I can see why some of the homosexual sub-cultures are grumbling against the film. It suggests that both the central characters are open to same-sex attraction because their father-figures were either absent or jackasses. You can't help feeling like homosexual men don't choose to be so, but become so because of abuse or neglect.

If there was anything propagandistic about the film, it was the way in which every straight male character in the film was a total jack-ass. But again, this just goes to the idea that same-sex attraction comes from people getting dropped on their head, not from God having made them that way.

From a cinematic standpoint, there is a problem in the film that results in, well, yawns on the part of the audience. The thirty or so folks in the screening tonight were mostly yawning from about forty minutes in. i was thinking about this in the car on the way home, and it seems to me that the flaw in the film is the lack of chemistry between the two male characters. I just never felt like there was any heat between them. The film never achieved romance, and then asks the viewers to pretend that it did. It is a flaw in direction that we never felt anything between the characters. Ang Lee also had this problem in Sense and Sensibility. I remember feeling that both romances in that film felt a little icky.

Come to think of it, the romances in Ice Storm also felt icky. I guess that proves Ang Lee can't do love stories. Which makes all the fuss over this Brokeback to be nothing more than turning a little molehill of a movie into a mountain in the culture wars.

I can't really recommend the film. It isn't good enough to justify getting the images in your head of men doing their twisted enemas-as-act of love thing. I can't really pan it either. It isn't thematically coherent enough to be insidious. It is what it is. Whatever that is.