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I was fortunate enough to see the North American premiere at the
Toronto International Film Festival. That was two days ago, and this
film just wont leave my mind. Not that I'm complaining because this is
what good cinema is all about.
Ennis and Jack, two cowboys who fall in love. As others have touched on, Brokeback Mountain is so much more than merely a "gay cowboy movie". It perfectly captures what true, unbridled love is all about and this love transcends any issues of sexuality or gender. "Love is a force of nature". Unfortunately for many people and indeed the protagonists of our story, society doesn't always view it that way.
Kudos to Ang Lee who has not shied away from the material at all. This adaptation stays true to the original short story and the two lead actors fit the roles perfectly. Ledger and Gyllenhaal give incredibly strong performances but the supporting cast shouldn't be overlooked either, particularly a somewhat unrecognizable Michelle Williams. Solid work all around and with Mr Ang Lee's vision they have created an amazing piece of cinema that should not be missed by anybody. Without giving anything away, you are going to be moved by this one.
I don't remember when was the last time I felt a movie like I felt Ang Lee's extraordinary "Brokeback Mountain". I can safely say it's the greatest, original American melodrama since the times of Douglas Sirk and I'm sure that even the great Todd Haynes would agree with me. His stunning "Far From Heaven" is an exquisite reproduction, this one updates and reinvents it without betraying it. My girlfriend had tears in her eyes and so did I. Heath Ledger's character spoke to me directly. And the word sex hasn't come into the equation yet. Love takes over the whole story and Heath Leger will be the dominating star of the next decade, if he wants to. Jake Gylenhaal is also superb but his character, nags,understandably so, but we know Heath much better than him and we're on Heath side. The buttoning of the shirt is already a landmark scene in my mind. I'm sure this film is arriving at just the right time. It will teach without preaching and many will learn.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It was only time before a film about two men in love would get the
treatment it gets in Ang Lee's BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, since up to now,
films had either skirted the subject, reduced it to a peripheral,
sanitized version of itself or given it the eye-candy treatment only
meant at making a quick impression in the "Gay-Lesbian" category. The
simple yet deceptive story of two people who meet, fall in love, but
are unable to fulfill their love has been done over and over again from
the male-female perspective (i. e. IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE, THE AGE OF
INNOCENCE, BRIEF ENCOUNTER), but never involving two men, and never
this brutally honest.
Of course, the dynamic of male love is different than male-female love only in genitalia. Jack and Ennis' first encounter while waiting for work, their isolation leading to each other's arms, is the stuff of every restrained romantic drama. The mechanism of two men falling in love here develops along the lines of homo-masculinity dictating patterns of behavior which both Jack and Ennis obey whether they know it or not. It comes to me as no surprise when, following their first sexual encounter (brutally executed with undertones of sadomasochism but true to the style of love involving alpha males), they revert to "not being queers" but cowboys who excuse "what happened" to liquor and "manly needs". Which of course verbalizes society's impositions of men having to be "men."
Of course, things take a different turn and the heart wants what it wants. Once their work is done, Jack tries to keep their acquaintance alive but Ennis is so intensely closed and closeted to any possibility of emotions that he looks like he may implode at any moment and only once does he actually scream into his hat, bent over, as Jack drives away. The sound is a terrible, heart-rending puke of indescribable pain.
What follows is a series of brief encounters that become more intense as the years go by, but at the same time destroys two marriages and consumes then to the end. Love is an uncontrollable emotion, and when two people who belong together despite their gender cannot fulfill their dreams it's only a matter of time when things reach a head. Again, the constraints of time and space interfere: Ennis cannot see a life outside what he knows, again more a product of the trauma of seeing something horrible as a child, and Jack, not having what he wants, has to take to meeting other men in sordid locations and re-create a semblance of an affair with a man who resembles Ennis. In presenting these situations as they are and not trying to pursue change in its characters, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN is the love story that transcends gender, space, time, and proves that love -- even when tragic -- is universal.
Even so, will straight people see the message behind the story? I believe straight women (and a few enlightened straight men) will be the ones drawn to view the movie over a majority of conservative idiots who still hold the idea of two men locked in intimacy as being repugnant and are ripping their feeble brains out over the quasi "gay agenda" that BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN is trying to "convert people to homoesexuality". Sometimes it takes a movie like this which dares to take the risk and tell an unforgettable story rife in visual and emotional power -- true poetry in motion.
All of the actors in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN are flawless, and all of them have roles that in another story might have been bland stereotypes of predictable natures. Jake Gyllenhaal is smoldering longing at the beginning but becomes a broken man who explodes in rage when he realizes that twenty years have gone down the drain. Heath Ledger goes one better: his painful speech, furtive eyes, and inward body language expresses an overwhelming set of emotions which state that he'd never be able to be happy with anyone, and his final scene holding Jack's shirt comes more as an apology to Jack than an added moment of schmaltz. Michelle Williams plays a typical housewife who is witnessing something she can't understand. Linda Cardellini, who comes quite late in the film, initially appears to be just a waitress, but is the person who gives Ennis an advice about love. Anne Hathaway's role as Jack Twist's wife is much more tricky: is she aware of his gayness or is she really all about business and having a perfect home? I get the feeling her character knows more than she expresses, and her turning progressively blonde is a manifestation of her choosing to look the other way and live a life of bitter complacency, best expressed in her telling speech about how "men don't dance with their wives." If she only knew.
I saw this film last night and loved it. It starts off a little bit
worryingly - just a bit too brooding. But as it gets going the story
takes over and becomes utterly absorbing.
It's a fantastic return to the Ice Storm aesthetic for Ang Lee. Lots of concentration on the minute and the things that aren't said.
Both Jake and Heath are fantastic in it. Quite surprising really. With Jake you think you'll find it hard to shake the his previous iconic roles, well specifically Donnie Darko. But he moves completely beyond that. Likewise Heath Ledger who brings a huge amount of power to a closed-up character who really doesn't that all that much.
All so terribly moving too.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw Brokeback Mountain for the first of what I hope to be many, many
times two days ago, and I don't think a minute has passed since the
viewing when the film's brilliance hasn't permeated my thoughts. I find
myself scouring the Internet, hoping to find anything that will remind
of me of this monumental film.
Reading the user comments, I am struck by how many people feel exactly as I feel like you have been hit like a ton of bricks and unable to stop thinking about it. I had read the short story several times before seeing the movie and thought knowing the story and its sad ending in advance would brace me for the film version. It did not. Instead, I think I was crying ten times as much because I could not bear for Jack and Ennis to meet their terrible fate.
Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhall are magnificent and if not for them (and the incredible work by Ang Lee), I think this film would have been a massive disappointment. Instead, days later, just thinking of Ennis and Jack's stolen embrace and kiss in broad daylight after being apart for four years is enough to make my heart skip a beat and my stomach lurch. Everything about that scene is perfect Ennis' giddiness as he waits for Jack, how he skips down the stairs, the genuine embrace that quickly gives way to a clinch and kiss that seems to overpower both of them, their efforts to pull one another away from each other and Ennis' reluctance to do so as evidenced by his subtle but oh so honest hand gestures as he turns away from Jack so they can meet Ennis' wife. I've teared up just sitting here at my desk at work.
Heath Ledger's performance is the most amazing thing I've seen in years. I really just wanted to get onto the screen and hug him. Which reminds me of the effectiveness of the Cassie Cartwright character (which I don't believe was in the short story). Here is this man, Ennis Del Mar, who barely says a word and appears mostly downtrodden and at a dead end in his life. And yet, because of the depth and emotion that Heath Ledger is able to infuse into Ennis, this bubbly, outgoing and beautiful woman is completely in love with him. The magic, of course, is that this doesn't seem implausible. I loved Ennis, too. Judging from the audience, we all did. And his inability to reciprocate that love with anybody but the one person he perceives as forbidden is what renders this story among the most heartbreaking I've ever known.
I don't normally write reviews either, as many others have mentioned, but feel obligated to out of the deep sense of gratitude I have for Ang Lee, Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhall, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway and, of course, the genius of the original short story and wonderfully adapted screenplay. This film is an instant classic that will be mentioned in the same sentence as all the great ones. Thank you for the bravery and skill that was exerted for our benefit.
P.S. I am already preparing myself for disappointment come Oscar time, but sincerely hope that BBM sweeps all categories. No other movie came close this year.
It's been three days now and this Brokeback Brain-flu shows no sign of letting up. I've tried watching other movies, going out with friends, reading, working, but nothing works: not unlike Jack and Ennis, I'm stuck on Brokeback Mountain. Why am I awash in an aching flood of longing? That wasn't my life at all up there on that screen--I haven't lived a life of regret and lost chances. When I was twenty, thirty two years ago, I spent a magic summer with a girl I fell in love with the second I saw her--and we've been together ever since. We're surrounded by our almost grown children, we have careers we love, we're still discovering things about each other and forging all kinds of new paths in our lives. So why the aching and the longing and the sweet-sad regret that took hold of me the second I heard the first strains of Santaolalla's awesome score and haven't yet let go? Is it that the themes of pain so powerfully explored in this great work of art go deeper than the satisfactions and achievements of any one life? Is it that the movie says something eternally true about how alone we remain no matter what arms may hold us? Looking back, the last time I walked around in a movie for days and days after seeing it was The Last Picture Show, over thirty years ago. . So maybe it's about the magic combination of Larry McMurtry and Randy Quaid. Whatever it is, this movie is now up there with The Godfather, Citizen Kane, Wild Strawberries, The Last Picture Show, etc. I was beginning to think I'd never again see a movie that I would consider calling the best movie I ever saw in my life. But I have. Thank you, Mr. Lee and Ms. Proulx.
Not a review proper, but what I need to say all the same.
Last night I saw Brokeback Mountain for the second time, and for the second time I came out of the theatre thinking, I was only in there for two hours. How can I feel so entirely different from when I went in?
It's not a detached sadness, not at all. It's a grief, a feeling that I was watching the whole time and could do nothing, a suspicion that so much time has passed and left so many stories behind. I am not an emotional person, and yet each time the credits roll I have to take five minutes to myself, to rub my forehead and swallow the need to just break down. It's not fair, I think. It didn't have to happen that way. It didn't.
I forgot I was watching actors. I feel like it all happened to real people. I feel...
Broken. It gives me an ache in my gut. Jack and Ennis - I feel more fictional than they are.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Oh wow.. I know I credited Jack Twist with the above quote, but at this
point, I think it could apply to anybody who has seen it. What IS it
about this movie that has got me in tangles?!?! I can't sleep, eating
seems kinda empty and time NOT talking about Brokeback is time wasted!!
I have never been like this with a film before - EVER. And frankly, out
of the 25 pages of submissions I sat through reading last night, I
thank god I'm not the only one. I wish I had a dollar for every time I
read comments like "this is the first time I've ever posted a review
for a movie" etc.
Including the session I just arrived home from, I have seen Brokeback Mountain a total of 9 times. Not bad, considering it was only released in Australia on the 26th January. Everybody knows the story but for those who want to read my take on it: Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) meet while seeking employment. No words are spoken, only glances that are furtive and sneaky (Ennis) or brazen and inviting (Jack). They herd sheep on Brokeback Mountain and the glances between the men become more frequent and varying in the emotions that drive them. It is an absolute credit to the acting in this film that you can tell exactly what the actor is conveying without words. See if you can spot the sheepishness and embarrassment that fleets across Jack's face as he realizes Ennis is intently watching the mare's attempt to buck him off. It's there. See if you can spot the curiosity that grows with every look Ennis gives Jack. The boys herd sheep, they meet up for meals, they begin to drink a little.
And it amazes me that no reviewer has mentioned just how funny the first half hour of the movie is! Here's another one: see if you can spot the mischievous little glint that flashes across Ennis's eyes and mouth before he baits rodeo-rider Jack with the line "now my daddy, he was a fine roper. Didn't rodeo much though. He thought rodeo cowboys was all ****-ups". And Jack's indignation giving way to a little impromptu rodeo dance before crashing headlong into all their gear. And Ennis's wry observation "I think my dad was right". Wonderful, genre-appropriate humor. And then the drinking which leads to Ennis spending the night down at the campsite before the freezing temperatures force him into the pup-tent with Jack.
This starts the whole movie in motion. The boys sexual encounter is quite rough and violent, but something in Jack accepts this is the way Ennis is most comfortable expressing himself. Startling contrast to the tenderness of the following evening, when Jack is the one dominating the encounter. He whispers over and over to the clearly struggling Ennis "its alright, its alright" and pulls him into a protective embrace, kissing his hair, his face. The surrender and submission on Ennis's face is something we see rarely for the rest of the movie.
The boys separate and marry their women. But their lives are a sham and they know it. The two leads also beautifully convey - again without words - the fact that what they yearn for most is each other.
I could talk about this all day, but instead I'm going to cite a few of my favorite moments - the moments that (even after 9 viewings) still make me well-up: 1. The look that crosses Ennis's face as he walks to the window and sees Jack for the first time in 4 years, pulling up in his truck.
2. The unrestrained passion of their reunion. They embrace, there's a fire in their eyes, and Ennis takes his lover by the lapels of his vest and shoves him against the wall, knocking his hat off and landing the most intense, breathtaking and passionate kiss I have ever seen in watching 30 years of movies. Bogie and Bacall WISHED they had this kind of intensity and chemistry.
3. The 15 - 20 seconds of screen time it takes for you to watch Jack become a broken man. Upon hearing of Ennis's divorce, Jack drives from Texas to Wyoming to surprise him. He is full of life, whistling and smiling. And when he realizes Ennis's divorce doesn't change anything between them and they still can't be together, the sparkle literally disappears from his eyes, his posture sags slightly and his heart breaks. You see it all. I've heard it said: Jake Gyllenhaal has been robbed blind at the spate of recent award ceremonies. This scene and the ensuing scene of him driving away crying is among the finest acting in the film.
4. One final image: Ennis sitting at Jack's dining room table, eye-balling Mr Twist, who has just bitterly revealed (without explicitly stating) that he knows his son was gay and that Ennis was his lover. Ennis doesn't respond but he feels the hostility emanating. And then a gentle reassuring hand appears in shot on Ennis's shoulder, from Jack's mother, who also knows but accepts and understands and most importantly, supports.
Everybody has already said it but I have to say it again: the acting. Heath is completely brilliant, as is his bevy of supporting women, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway and Linda Cardellini. But as far as I'm concerned, this wouldn't have been the film it was without Jake Gyllenhaal. Jack is the heart and soul of this movie.
This is a film I am struggling to wean myself off. Its hard sitting through other movies now cause they all pale in comparison. Nothing has ever touched me like this. Its hard to imagine anything will ever again. I know you can't really give a film 15 out of 10 but there you have it. Brokeback got us good? You better believe it.
I can see by the voting curve that there is a weighted backlash against this unforgettable film. Whether that has anything to do with homophobia or just plain ignorance I have no idea, but it doesn't speak well for the vocal minority apparently full of narrow-minded hate and fear. And I say this as a straight male who feels that Ang Lee and his remarkable cast and crew have made one of the most HUMANE films ever, one that eclipses gender issues and tells a beautifully understated tale with a poet's eye and a tragic undertone of yearning. Heath Ledger doesn't merely act in this film, he inhabits the role of Ennis Del Mar with a depth that feels more real than any "performance" I've seen in memory, and that includes Philip Seymour Hoffman's astounding acting in "Capote". The way he attempts to throttle his feelings, even as they continually bubble to the surface, is a wrestling match painful to watch, the dilemma of a man torn between what he thinks he should be and what he is. He and Jake Gyllenhall as Jack are terrific together. You can feel their furtive bond lighting the screen, even as they know, sadly, that it can never be anything more than episodic. But what is so devastating about "Brokeback Mountain" is how this love compromises the lives of those Ennis and Jack enter as substitution for their own passion. I will never forget the stricken look on Alma's (Michelle Williams) face as she catches Ennis kissing Jack with a ferocity she has never known in her marriage to him. You can see the life draining from her eyes, all hope of whatever she hoped to have shattered in a single, revelatory image. After all the dust of controversy has settled, time will justly award this magnificent film its rightful place in cinematic history.
With so many excellent and insightful comments regarding "Brokeback
Mountain," I feel no need to say a lot about the film's plot, acting,
etc., except to say that having been fortunate enough to see an early
press-screening of Ang Lee's film -- five days later, I remain
One of the songs written for the movie is titled "A Love that Will Never Grow Old," and for many, many film goers, this is a film that will "never grow old."
As the Chair of the Film Studies program at the University of Missouri- Kansas City, I teach a course titled "The Silver Screen and the American Dream" which regularly enrolls well over 300 "Red State" students. In that class we screen and study the "canon" of great American films that most show the power of film to impact the ever changing meaning of the "The American Dream" -- Chaplin's "Modern Times," "Casablanca," "Citizen Kane," "The Searchers," "Rebel Without a Cause," "To Kill a Mockingbird," "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, " on to "Bonnie and Clyde," "Easy Rider," "Midnight Cowboy," "The Godfather," etc. -- but the difficulty of finding post-1970s Hollywood films worthy of being included in this "canon" has proved to be depressingly obvious.
Suddenly, unexpectedly, out-of-nowhere, Ang Lee has given us the first film of the 21st Century to join the "canon" of GREAT American films that will be watched and beloved for decades to come. Like the truly 'canonical' American films of the past, "Brokeback Mountain" will be hitting new generations of film lovers in the gut and the heart in 2050 and 2100, as much as it does in 2005.
In this cynical age when our best film directors seem content to give us "postmodern deconstructions" of past Hollywood genres, that Ang Lee gives us a film so pure and direct in its emotional power -- with (to use Fassbinder's phrase) the "direct tenderness" of the films of Douglas Sirk -- and even more, to bring Sirk's "direct tenderness" into a rapprochement with the great, masculine Westerns of Ford and Hawks. That is what I call a a mind-blowing, gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, film-making miracle.
Some great films can "blow one's mind," othes can "get you in the gut;" others can "break one's heart." Very few hit you in the brain, gut, and heart with one blow. The last 20-minutes of "Brokeback Mountain" delivers a K.O. to the brain, the gut, and the heart in one swift hit.
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