Wednesday, January 18, 2006Recommendations, Part II
Today, after a few days' delay, I caught a matinee showing of Brokeback Mountain. And I'm not going to repeat the same obligatory points that have been made in every single review written on the film. They're all true: it is indeed a film about two guys in love with each other that is not overtly "gay," and that's very interesting and will no doubt stand as a pivot point in the history of gay cinema. We all know that by now, so I'll say no more about it.
What I personally found much more interesting is the image of masculinity invoked in the film -- particularly as it pertains to love and romantic/sexual affection. In spite of both characters being ostensibly "queer" (or not, according to their protestations), this film is positively dripping with testosterone -- these are cowboys, for fuck's sake, and not the cliche, Village People kind. That scenario makes for a very loaded story working around some tricky questions: what's the nature of masculinity? What assumptions lie at the core of homosexual identity, and male identity, and both together? So, yeah, the "point" of the film is that this love story between two men is just a love story like any other -- but even without the influence of gay culture, that's a hell of a big statement, and one that reaches to the core of our social assumptions. How do two men go about loving each other? And I'm not being facetious or rhetorical in asking that -- seriously, how do two men go about loving each other? Stripped of all the trappings of being out and proud, removed from queer identity, reduced to its basic essence, in and of itself, what's that relationship like? How does it work? And why haven't I ever asked that question before?
I'm waiting impatiently for more men I know to see it, because I want to know how true these characters are. And I don't just want to hear from the gay guys, but the straight ones too. The men I've gotten closest to are often surprised to hear me say this (which I don't understand, because it seems so obvious), but men are spectacularly mysterious creatures to me, and an eternal source of fascination. Putting two of them together where they inhabit some emotional space beyond feminine influence drives me absolutely mad with curiosity, and this is case in point. It's been criticized in some circles for not having "heart" (that bullshit word film critics use when they can't actually explain or describe the emotional effect something's had on them), and I can sort of understand what they mean -- the initial sex scene is abrupt, rough bordering on violent, utterly de-romanticized, and purely lust-driven -- in other words, everything we're not used to seeing in a cinematic love story. I admit, I found the setup and eventual payoff surprising and possibly a little empty, and that might just be down to a directorial problem, but I suspect not, at least where artistic intention is concerned. I know enough about men and sex to know that abrupt, rough, and unromantic are perfectly likely adjectives; put two men together and I would imagine the chances of their cropping up increase exponentially. So maybe what we really mean when we say it was abrupt or rough or unromantic is that it would never have happened that way in a "normal" sex scene involving a man and a woman. Which, of course, is the rub (no pun intended): there's no woman involved. Huh.
The point is underlined by comparisons with these two men in their corresponding encounters with women. Homoerotic horseplay (with a big, tough cowboy) is a completely different thing from hetero-erotic horseplay (with a delicate, non-threatening little flower of womanhood), and frankly, I know which one looks like more fun (albeit more dangerous... but that's where the fascination lies, no?) Subsequent scenes between the guys are more romanticized, but not by much -- there's more kissing, but still a lot of restrained struggle for dominance. And that's fucking hot.
Or maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part. We see what we want to see, right?
Also, the point I cannot set aside: Heath Ledger is the most beautiful man alive. And I don't even dig blondes -- that's how stunning this man is. (And that pouty little mouth of his... sweet Jesus.)
PS: And (perhaps sadly) there's not a bit of pudding involved, so I don't want to hear about it being an "art" film. It's not.
PPS: Suck it, John Wayne. |