Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Friday, 30 January 2015

BBM now

Sticking with westerns (of sorts) we also had another look at BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN again - as I have now got the Sky Movies package so re-seeing lots of items of interest (WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? is being recorded right now for later, the dvd is packed away). 

Dramas don't come more intense than BBM, and it is almost a decade on from it now. I have not written about it as such (I started this blog in 2010) and it became such a cliche and simply known as "the gay western", so going back to it, after almost 10 years, was certainly interesting. I was rivetted by it at the time and by Heath Ledger's incredible performance, certainly up there with Brando and De Niro or Bogarde or Mason, as among the best male performances which stay with one. Ang Lee too makes the most of the locations (as he did with SENSE & SENSIBILITY) and brings the slim novella by Anne Proulx, as scripted by veteran Larry McMurty (HUD, THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, LONESOME DOVE etc) to life, and of course he is tremendous with actors and creates a perfect canvas. It all looks marvellous too of course, with those Canadian locations.

A raw, powerful story of two young men, a Wyoming ranch hand and a rodeo cowboy, who meet in the summer of 1963 sheepherding in the harsh, high grasslands of contemporary Wyoming and form an unorthodox yet life-long bond--by turns ecstatic, bitter and conflicted.
I had little patience with Jack and Ennis initially (back in 2005) - and echoed the usual complaint: why didn't they run away to San Francisco or any big western city, and maybe work in a jeans store or similar job and be together, if that is what they wanted - lots of others did. But of course they are country boys and that is their milieu and time. They are obviously bisexual but Ennis is too closed-up and too scared to live his life openly, and it was 1963 - and of course he had that vision seared in his brain of what he saw as a child when two other men living together where brutally killed.  Other unconvincing moments include their fishing trips, but not bothering to bring back any fish! 

The two women, Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway are brilliant too. As the story progresses through the years we see them mature and develop as Ennis becomes more isolated and closed off from human contact - that scene of him eating his apple pie alone in the diner pierced me at the time with the intensity of it, like how he crumples when Jack drives off after their first season on the mountain. We forget we are watching a same-sex romance but get involved with these two human beings and their impossible relationship.
We see Jack change too as his frustrations boil over and he takes to having sex with other men when Ennis cannot meet him, and we notice how he is told that Lureen has a rich father before he chats to her at the rodeo. Family pressures get to him too as he gets annoyed with his interfering father-in-law; and there is that perfectly judged scene where he is propositioned by the eager, also married, business associate with talk of his cabin where they could go and drink whiskey and get away from it all .... other folk obviously are able to deal with that repressed era in the early sixties, before The Beatles hit America and then later Swinging Sixties when young, isolated rural gays must have realised they had more choices ... by then Ennis and Jack were trapped in their family situations and mindset. 

The ending too is haunting, as we imagine Jack's death as told by Lureen on the phone to Ennis, and see Ennis's visit to Jake's parents, his crushed, knowing mother, and those two shirts, and he telling his daughter to marry the man she wants. BBM is even more a classic now (there are over 2,000 reviews of it at IMDb, and will be more remembered than CRASH which did win Best Picture that year) - Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist are characters that stay with one, and it will remain a key movie for many reasons, a huge sensation at the time (as all those reviews attest) bringing gays into the mainstream, and maybe paving the way for films like THE NORMAL HEART; BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR is a Cannes prize-winner, and movies on other gay couples like LOVE IS STRANGE or CLOUDBURST come and go without any fuss. . Ennis and The Joker in THE DARK KNIGHT remain Ledger's monuments, a great actor, like Philip Seymour Hoffman, also gone too young. Jake has continued to impress too, particularly this year with NIGHTCRAWLER ... 

Interesting comments from www.the in their 'Top 100 Gay Movies' where BBM is number one: 
Jake Gyllenhaal is flawless as Jack Twist in, arguably, the movie’s most difficult role. But Heath Ledger’s heartbreaking portrayal of Ennis Del Mar, a walking cautionary tale of homophobia’s logical end result, is a revelation — a total acting transformation made all the more tragic by Ledger’s death. But the indignities and injustices that Jack and Ennis faced did not end at Brokeback Mountain’s closing credits. Upon the film’s release, the movie’s makers and fans were subjected to a six-month orgy of tasteless jokes from clueless comedians and bile-filled commentary from right-wing pundits. All of this negativity culminated when the movie, long considered the Oscar front-runner, lost Best Picture to a fine but unremarkable movie called Crash, perhaps the most egregious upset in Oscar history and almost certainly the result of lingering homophobia in Hollywood’s old guard.

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