Brokeback Mountain

We saw Brokeback Mountain right after it opened in Evansville on January 20th. It’s a painful, beautiful film that portrays the heartbreak when two people are prevented from being together by an untolerant society (even if that lack of tolerance is only in their minds). Even my parents can understand that basic fact.

The criticism of the film from the right is just what one would expect them to say. Some people complained about the graphic sex, even though there is only one “sex scene” (if you can call it that) between the two men, and it’s so brief and obscure that you’d miss it if you blink. Yes, they do kiss, but if a man and woman kissing isn’t a “sex scene,” then neither are those scenes in Brokeback.

Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle is one of my favorite movie writers and critics. He writes a weekly column in the Sunday Pink section called “Ask Mick LaSalle” where he responds to letters and comments from folks around the globe. Here’s what he wrote to one guy who took issue with Brokeback Mountain:

The question it poses to straight audiences is “How would you like it, to not be able to live with the person you love, to not be able to express your love publicly, to have to go through life pretending to be something you’re not?” Sure, in New York and San Francisco, we’re sort of past that question. But in much of the country people aren’t. So what better casting than to take a couple of young guys who seem about as gay as Gary Cooper and have them fall in love? What better way to accomplish this than to put the issue of sexuality off to the side and make the issue, instead, about love? And what better type of guys to place in this predicament than a pair of cowboys, cliches of American masculinity? The movie is telling audiences that Jack and Ennis’ situation is not about choice, but about identity, and it’s saying if you can’t be yourself in America it doesn’t make sense. What other country asserts that it’s everyone’s right to pursue happiness?

“Brokeback Mountain” ties gayness to the American dream in the most obvious way imaginable, in a way so obvious that it might be considered ridiculous in 20 years time. Or brilliant. I can’t tell. But for the time being, it’s effective and I have to consider it a very good movie.

You can read Mick’s entire column here. And be sure to go see Brokeback Mountain. It’s wonderful.