*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ang Lee is one of a triumvirate (with Hsiao-hsien Hou, and Edward Yang)
of Chinese directors who are among contemporary cinema's greatest
assets. I have loved most of his previous films to exasperation, and so
it was with great - perhaps too much - expectation that I ventured into
'Brokeback Mountain'. Let me emphasise that I have not read anything by
Annie Proulx, but it doesn't matter. Films, no matter what their
origins, have to stand by what is on the screen, and what is on this
particular screen is, in my opinion, fatally flawed by careless
cinematic expression. The two central characters are noticeably and
understandably inarticulate. Their outdoor lifestyles are the total
inverse of those of the chattering classes that inhabit, for example,
the world of Woody Allen.
But in the cinema, there is a rule that says if your characters are inarticulate, then it is up to the director to give them 'visual articulateness'. If they cannot express their feelings in words, then we must be given visual pointers to their feelings. In 'The Ice Storm' - Ang Lee's masterpiece, in my opinion, this principle is adhered to with wonderful results. But here, we get grunts and manly gestures that suggest nothing. The 'bond' which ties them together as they part does not express any emotional need - they do not dream or daydream of each other, sexually or otherwise, as far as we are shown. The scene at the end of their summer on the mountain is a complete cop-out, we need to feel what they feel, and we are not invited to feel anything.
Why is this film attracting so much attention (compared with Lee's better early work)? I fear it is because a film embracing gay modern cowboys is thought to be on the brave side of risqué. Perhaps it will help us gain tolerance or some such desirable attribute.
But it isn't cinema.
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