Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Brokeback Mountain

Yes. It's as good as they say it is--one of the most truthful, honest adaptations of a short story I've ever seen. The acting is extremely good. Much of the talk has been how it is really Heath Ledger's film--and it is--but one of my favorite moments is when Jake Gyllenhaal (as Jack Twist) manages to break your heart in about three seconds when he is forced not to look at his naked friend squatting and bathing himself with hot water from the kettle.

The film is quite tense, with not a lot of space for the audience to breathe, to let go of that anxiety, despite the slowness of the story, the spaces created by the leaps forward in time. You know that their love is already doomed from the first few frames. After the movie I felt completely displaced. The images are with me still, and days later, I am unable to get Jack & Ennis out of my head.

My only criticism is that -- perhaps to be expected -- there isn't enough flesh in the film. I don't mean naked celebrities, I mean the sweat, the hot breath, the dirty boys that they would, of course, be. And the sex scenes aren't quite as touching or rough as the scenes of Jack & Ennis wrestling each other to the ground, bloodying each other's noses. Ang Lee's direction in terms of the actual skin against skin is a little precious.

But I was angry at the Chelsea audience, full of gay men who reacted in bursts of laughter and titillation when Ennis's lonely wife catches her husband kissing and embracing Jack in the stairway outside their apartment. It seemed to me the wrong reaction--it felt salacious, and cheap, like some juvenile woo-wooing you'd hear from the studio audience of Friends. And I guess, foolishly perhaps, I expected more out of them. I always over-estimate the public.

It was obviously just a release of that uncomfortable tension, but I wondered later if we, as gay people, do not truly believe in love between one another that deeply, that unabashedly gut-wrenching and rare. Because it took all these straight people--a straight director, straight actors and screenwriters--to make one of the most affecting, realistic gay love stories ever put on film.

"What a waste of two lives," a friend wrote to me the next morning. If you find that kind of love, steal it. Pray that when it happens, you are wise enough to live it.

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