Back in the Saddle Again

28 Jan

When I first saw Brokeback Mountain at the beginning of December, I liked the movie, but I wasn’t particularly moved by it.

As a result, I thought my impressions of the movie had been tainted by the wave of hype that had preceded its release.

And I’m not going to lie, that sort of bothered me.

I felt like I had missed out on something, and that I didn’t get the full Brokeback experience. (Stop your snickering.) And if you know me at all, you know I hate to miss out on something that everyone else has experienced.

So now, about two months later, I’ve seen Brokeback Mountain again.

And I know how this will sound relative to the fact that there’s so much more hype now than there was back then, but the second time I saw the movie, I had the emotional experience I was hoping for.

When the lights went up, I found myself profoundly saddened by what I had seen. In fact, it was not all that different from how I feel every time I see The Talented Mr. Ripley, which is one of my top 5 favorite films of all time. Both films elicit a real sympathy (and, I’ll admit, empathy) for the main character, because Tom Ripley and Ennis both are denied the happiness they crave so desperately. Both characters thought they had made a much-needed emotional connection with someone, and in both cases, due to tragic circumstances they are partly responsible for, it has been taken away from them.

Regarding Brokeback, I still didn’t necessarily see what initially drew Jack and Ennis to each other in such a passionate way, but unlike the first time I saw the film, I actually felt that there was a connection, however tenuous, and that made much of what followed all that much more powerful for me.

Brokeback Mountain is clearly one of the best stories and one of the best-made movies of the year. It deserves every accolade it gets.

Still, I’m a little bit confused by why the gay community has embraced it to the degree it has. Yes, the love story is treated respectfully, and the film portrays a slant on Americana that has heretofore been unseen by mainstream audiences.

But at its heart (no pun intended), Brokeback Mountain is a deeply sad film about some very lonely characters. The film doesn’t end happily, it doesn’t put forth a message of hope in any way, and really, considering our hero is a character so far in the closet that it hurts to watch him be in such pain about it, I’d think it would hardly be the type of film gay people would embrace.

Perhaps that’s why I don’t understand it, because I’m not in that community.

My larger point, I suppose, is that the film is so universal in its theme of loneliness and despair that no community can truly lay claim to it.

When Jack and Ennis are in their argument toward the end of the film, and Ennis says, “It’s because of you that I’m like this,” he doesn’t entirely mean gay. He means frustrated because he isn’t allowing himself to be happy and in a relationship that he wants — and, more importantly, needs — and it’s killing him.

And when Jack utters the now infamous line, “I wish I knew how to quit you,” it doesn’t elicit the laughs that it gets out of context. It’s truly heartbreaking.

I’ll bet a good handful of the people who have been laughing at the “quit you” jokes are blown away by the reaction they have when the line is spoken in the film.

Every now and then, a movie will come along that will provide a cathartic emotional experience of some kind. Whether it elicits tears or just a lump in your throat (and no, I was not a crying, blubbering idiot), I think that’s just about the best praise you can give, that the film generated such a strong response, even if it’s not a happy one.

And in truth, I feel like I could see Brokeback Mountain again. Actually, I want to. And I’m going to up my grade to a B+/A- hybrid.

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2 Responses to “Back in the Saddle Again”

  1. Anonymous November 21, 2007 at 12:15 pm #

    finally you gave it the right rating… although on your previous examination…how well do you think you could “connect” with another man on screen? they gave it their all

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  1. Welcome to Pi’s Ark « Martin's Musings - November 20, 2012

    […] Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain), working from a screenplay by David Magee, clearly wants to make a more artistic kind of film, […]

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