Gay cowboys wandering the land: a short note on Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain


As Ang Lee’s recent Pi movie is hitting french theaters, I decided to write a little bit about how versatile and gifted this man is. Since the beginning of the 90’s, this director never stopped to amaze by its agility to move from one genre to another, while retaining a high degree of quality. A shapeshifter in cinema, he’s been at the helm of  different types of movies such as “chinese dramas”, “WuXiaPan 101 for the american market”, “70’s gone wrong drama”, a western, a comic book  film, the list just goes on and on. In 2005, with “Brokeback Mountain”, an adaptation from a 30 pages long short story, he took another solid turn with a daring approach to american mythology. And this film may very well be one of his best along with “Ice Storm”. 

Do we carve nature after our own wishes?
Or do wishes are carved by nature?

‘s setting of a man+man love story in cowboy land, set against America’s eerily scenery brings question about american identity. I just love when Jack goes angry at their situation and shouts “All we got is Brokeback Mountain”. This and, of course the end, reminds me how precious this film is. Because of its own qualities (among many feats, the visual direction is impeccable all along, even stunning) and because of the lack of solid, drama oriented love stories this past decade.

In Brokeback Mountain the American scenery is the only place where love is possible, far from society. It is sparse yet its wilderness allows some privacy for the couple. Kind of reminds the old european courtship stories, where the forest was the place for stracrossed lovers to hide when love was not affordable in front of others. That Ang Lee manages to be thought provoking and true to such myths as the American Land, the cowboy figure and all  is something very original. Cut to the gay chase: american spirit tags along characters that are supposed to tear the marlboro man cliché apart. And that is no mean feat from the writer’s (and well, actors) perspective.

For film’s sake this is arguably ten times better than all the straight shit I’ve been enduring quite recently. Well, there is still the Infinite playlists and the 500 days of summer of the world, but that’s light comedy right? I’m talking serious business here. You know, drama.

Brokeback is good because when the film is over, there’s only life itself, with all its burden and heartbreaks and regrets. This is portayed in a way that no straight romance from recent years would get close to. It seems like it would be really dangerous/impossible/ridicule (have your pick) right now to produce a serious straight movie about two people falling in love. So this is the closest thing as you can get as one of the top love-drama films from recent memories.

This is what Jayiijay says on youtube about this film. And I couldn’t agree more:

“Shame on all who make fun. This scene, and this film, are remarkable portraits of the human condition. Brokeback is already considered by many experts to be one of the finest films ever made, because it is about loneliness and the inability to love oneself for who one is. It is set in another time and another place, but applies to now. Ignore the haters, and watch this beautiful and moving work of art”.

In a nutshell: ten times better than Serendipity. And Steve Earle‘s Devil’s Right Hand hints the period. And Ledger is goddamn immense.

If I had a stupid island list to make someday, this would be in it.

The  straight story, january 2013
Sylvain Thuret /TheNightShift


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