movie: Brokeback Mountain (2005)

I just recently rewatched this movie, which I saw when it first came out, and appreciated. I’m quite blown away. This is masterful understatement. Emotions run fast and deep; Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar are men’s men in a classic sense, macho, physical, and (in Ennis’s case) of few words; they are also lovers. There is a rough physicality to their affection, as in the scene when Jack shows up at Ennis’s apartment after four years apart. It’s a deeply sexy, sensual movie, perhaps more movingly so because of how different this love and sex is from what we’re accustomed to seeing in romance movies.

And it’s a very romantic movie, in several senses. For one thing, there is the romantic relationship at its center; but there’s also the romanticism of ranching and rodeoing and the gorgeous scenery and harsh weather of the Montana mountains. (Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal are gorgeous, too.) I think the power of the film is in part in the overturning of expectations about romance (in both those meanings) and about who we expect Jack and Ennis to be. To put a point on it, we don’t expect cowboys to be gay, and we don’t expect gay men to be rough-and-tumble, macho-masculine cowboys. Those are stereotypes, and Brokeback Mountain is here to dispel them. But that makes it sound didactic when in fact it’s anything but that: it’s deeply beautiful, starkly painful, and at every point feels true.

I have dim memories of enjoying the Annie Proulx story this movie is based on, but perhaps because I saw the movie first, my standard remains this cinematic, visceral, visual version.

I could watch this movie over and over again.


Rating: 10 hats.

2 Responses

  1. I also thought it was a masterpiece, but I remember a friend once asked, “would it have been such a well-known movie if it had been a heterosexual love story?” “It wasn’t,” I responded. “And yes: it would have.” I don’t think everyone agrees with us. He thought it was “too simple” a story (but he enjoyed the movie). A narrative need not be intricate to be great!

    • Well, I think there is a little bit of a point there, in that some of the buzz and splash around it at the time was about the same-sex content. So, well-known? Maybe the content helped a little. But I side with you in this debate, obviously. The story was simple: elegantly, tragically so; and as are some of the greatest stories ever told. “A narrative need not be intricate to be great.” Here, here!

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