Daily Archives: December 8, 2005

Once more, dear friends, into the britches.

“Big love, in stories about men, tends to be a cheat, a lost cause, or a chimera.”

Well maybe for somebody who hasn’t read Proust, Genet, Irving Rosenthal or Samuel R. Delaney. But hey, to quote my favorite line from one of the greatest gay films ever made , “Here come those tired old tits again.” It’s David Leavitt, erstwhile “new gay novelist” whose greatest claim to fame is being on the losing end of a plagiarism lawsuit filed by Stephen Spender.

“In Brokeback Mountain—Ang Lee’s moving, operatic film adaptation of Annie Proulx’s story—it’s exactly what the tag line for the film says: a force of nature.”

Yadda, yadda, yadda. And yes, I’ve discussed this “deep dish” special before as has my Significant Cowpoke (who supplied the title of this FaBlog entry)

But Leavett’s impossible to resist, especially when he’s churning up drivel about a pluperfect example of gay movie that’s like they say on South Park, “Cowboys eatin ‘ puddin.”

Wait, scotch that. There’s no puddin’ on Brokeback Mountain. Just sheep.

“Herding sheep just above the tree line on a Wyoming mountain, two dirt-poor cowboys find themselves suddenly caught up in a passion for each other that they have no idea how to name, much less cope with.”

And neither do we. The swift sudden bit of ass-fucking that brings our two otherwise hetero sheepherders together comes quite literally out of nowhere. No foreply. No “Boston rub.” No oral. No puddin’

Nothing.

“Neither thinks of himself as ‘queer.’ On the contrary, the mountain itself gets both the credit and the blame for the affair that over the next 20 years will endow their lives with an intermittent grandeur, even as in other ways it drags them to the ground.”

In other words it’s the “Boy was I drunk last night!” syndrome that Mart Crowley parodied what seems like eons ago in The Boys in the Band, write large.

“Is Brokeback Mountain, as it’s been touted, Hollywood’s first gay love story?”

No. That would be Test Pilot with Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy.

“The answer—in a very positive sense, I think—is yes to the love story, no to the gay.”

And that’s precisely what’s wrong with it. It’s worse than Hamlet without the Prince. It’s. . .nothing.

“Make no mistake: The film is as frank in its portrayal of sex between men as in its use of old-fashioned romance movie conventions. Its stars are unabashedly glamorous. The big-eyed Jake Gyllenhaal is a far cry from Proulx’s small, bucktoothed Jack Twist, just as the blond, square-jawed Heath Ledger is nothing like her Ennis Del Mar, “scruffy and a little cave-chested.” Yet, even if, in their tailored jeans and ironed plaid shirts, Gyllenhaal and Ledger sometimes look more like Wrangler models than teenagers too poor to buy a new pair of boots, the film neither feels synthetic (in the manner of the abysmal Making Love) nor silly (in the manner of gay porn). On the contrary, his stars’ outsize screen presence provides Lee with a means of bringing to vivid cinematic life what is in essence a paean to masculinity.”

Give me gay porn — parrticularly Joe Gage’s latest. And while Making Love was no classic, it was tons more honest than this thing.

“And masculine the film is. Ledger’s astonishing performance reveals an unsuspected vein of tenderness in a character more likely to express emotion through violence than words.”

Right. You almost expect him to launch into a chorus of Monty Python’s immortal “I’m a lumberjack and I’m O.K.”

“His Ennis Del Mar is as monolithic as the mountainscape in which—with the same swiftness, brutality, and precision that he exhibits in shooting an elk—he fucks Jack Twist for the first time. (“Gun’s goin’ off,” Jack grunts in response—in the story, not the movie.) Ennis’ surprise at the affair—at its inconvenience as much as at its intensity—reflects a fundamental humbleness that keeps butting up against Jack’s willingness to take risks. It’s Jack who proposes, over and over, that they start up a ranch together, a plan Ennis counters with pragmatism (not to mention fear), even after his wife, Alma, divorces him. Instead Ennis limits the relationship to fishing and hunting trips two or three times a year. It’s as if he believes they don’t deserve better.”

Ah yes, “Come on back to mountain, Ennis honey!” That distant groan you hear is Leslie Fiedler turning over in his grave.

“As for Jack, the same cockiness that makes him dream of a “sweet life” with Ennis also leads him to pursue sex with other men, despite his own marriage—something Ennis never contemplates.”

Which like so much in this film makes no sense whatsoever.

“In a key scene, Jack, disappointed at learning that, even after his divorce, Ennis has no intention of making a life with him, drives to a louche simulacrum of Juarez, where he picks up a hustler and disappears with him into the literal darkness of a back alley. The scene is unsettling because it presents such a stark contrast to Jack and Ennis’ heady, exalted mountaintop lovemaking. For just a few seconds, we get a glimpse of the urban nightscape that was the locus of the very gay movies that might have been playing, in big cities, at the moment when the scene takes place—movies like Nighthawks and Taxi zum Klo, in which sexual profligacy is at once celebrated as a form of liberation and mourned as a pallid substitute for meaningful connection.”

Oh it’s louche, alright. Would that Ang Lee have left Anne E. Proulx’s tastefully PG “slash” fiction behind and gone down that Mexican back alley instead.

“It goes without saying that Brokeback Mountain is an entirely different kind of film. Perhaps it takes a woman to create a tale in which two men experience sex and love as a single thunderbolt, welding them together for life; certainly Proulx’s story is a far cry from such canonical gay novels as Edmund White’s The Farewell Symphony or Allan Hollinghurst’s The Swimming Pool Library, which poeticize urban promiscuity and sexual adventuring. Proulx, by contrast, exalts coupledom by linking it to nature.”

Which is precisely why White and Hollinghurst are writers of substance and Anne E.Proulx is a fag-hag dilletante

“Her narration, with its echoes of Western genre fiction, is knobby and elliptical, driven by an engine as unpredictable as the one that runs Jack Twist’s troublesome truck, with the result that it often backs into scenes that a more conventional writer would place front and center.”

Oh it’s very predicatable. What we’ve got here is a ‘tragic love story” right out of Fannie Hurst, by way of Gordon Merrick.

“Though Brokeback Mountain may have the sheen of a Hollywood romance, it is anything but conventional. True, screenwriters Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana have ironed out Proulx’s kinks, but they haven’t eliminated her eccentricities; instead, they’ve found a cinematic parallel in their appropriation of Hollywood conventions of masculinity. This is particularly the case in the last half of the film, which alternates scenes of quotidian domestic grief (and the rare emotional triumph) with the trips that Jack and Ennis make together into the mountains—trips during which, as they age, sex takes a back seat to bickering and what might best be described as a kind of conjugal ease. What both men want, it becomes clear, is what Ennis is afraid to let them have: the steadiness of each other’s companionship.”

The sine qua non of a “Chick Flick.”

“By the end, Ledger’s Ennis has crow’s feet, while Gyllenhaal’s Jack has sprouted a prosthetic paunch and a heavy mustache. The result is a defense of gay marriage made all the more eloquent by its evasion of the banalities implied in the word ‘gay’. “

There’s nothing more banal than gay marriage.

It has fallen to us (not by choice) to reinvent the world. And we have. Why not continue to do so then? Why look to straight hand-me-downs for guidance?

“Indeed, with the one exception of the scene in Juarez, nothing in Brokeback Mountain cries ‘gay.’ Neither of the heroes eschews sex with women; instead, they simply assert that they prefer sex with each other.”

Hence a “preference” rather than an orientation. Just the way the Heterosexual Dictatorship likes it.

“At one point in the story, Ennis asks Jack, “This happen a other people?” and Jack answers, “It don’t happen in Wyomin and if it does I don’t know what they do, maybe go to Denver.” Interestingly, McMurtry and Ossana leave this lone mention of possible urban refuge out of the movie, the point of which seems to be less to subvert the conventions of male bonding than to extend them. “Lover” isn’t a word Ennis and Jack ever utter.”

Well who does these days? Isn’t “partner” the preferred term? What an ugly weasel-word,
more appropriately applied to law firms and Martin and Lewis –whose last picture, come to think of it, was something of a gay western

“Instead they call each other ‘friend.’ When they kiss, their teeth hit. Respect for some burdensome ideal of masculine struggle underlies and at the same time undercuts their ability to love each other: an idea that Ledger in particular brings home by investing his performance with the deadpan, reticent tenderness of Hollywood Western stars from the 1950s. His stoicism drives the movie, and nowhere more movingly than when he utters its signature line: ‘If you can’t fix it you’ve got to stand it’.”

So Randolph Scott!

‘Does the fact that none of the principals involved in Brokeback Mountain is openly gay have anything to do with the film’s happy resistance to the stale clichés of gay cinema? ‘

What “stale cliches” are there in Mysterious Skin ? Mala Noche? Big Eden ? My Beautiful Laundrette ? Querelle ? Velvet Goldmine? Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train?

Maybe you were thinking of The Lost Language of Cranes

“Perhaps. In any case, McMurtry, Ossana, and Lee deserve as much credit for their tenacity (it took them seven years to get the movie made)”

Scarcely an eternity in today’s Hollywood.

“as for the skill with which they’ve translated Proulx’s spare, bleak story into a film with an epic sweep that nonetheless manages to be affectingly idiosyncratic in its portrayal of two men in love. In the end, Brokeback Mountain is less the story of a love that dares not speak its name than of one that doesn’t know how to speak its name, and is somehow more eloquent for its lack of vocabulary.”

Hunh?

Wanna run that one past us again?

Naw, I didn’t think you did.

“Ascending from plains where they lead lives of drudgery and routine humiliation, Ennis and Jack become the unwitting heroes of a story they haven’t a clue how to tell. The world breaks their backs, but in this brave film, they’re as iconic as the mountain.”

Iconic? Sure Like the Paramount mountain or the Matterhorn at Disneyland?

As as for those who “haven’t a clue” they would be those in the glbt community forever longing after straight approval for that which they can’t quite muster enough enthusiasm — themselves.

Yes Ennis and Jack are “heroes” to them, but not the “unwitting” kind. They’ve been expressly designed to fit into a closet as big as all outdoors.

It’s an ideal place for those queens of the oxymoron, Gay Republicans, to build their Log Cabins. Dress warm, boys — the summers up there are colder than Idlewild.

As for the rest of us, we’ve come down from that mountain a long, long time ago.

And we’re not going back.