Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
Contact Me
Home Page
Site Search
© Copyright 2004



Other Movies


Brokeback Mountain – A gentle version of Westerns: Review

“Brokeback Mountain” (Opened in Chennai/Madras on July 14 2006) comes from Ang Lee’s stable, which includes such variety as “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, “The Ice Storm”, “Sense and Sensibility” and “Eat Drink Man Woman”.

Lee, who won the Best Director Oscar this year (2006), missing out on the Best Picture Award (which went to Paul Haggis’ “Crash”), presents a more gentle version of the Westerns we have seen with Clint Eastwood, John Wayne and the like.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger
“Brokeback Mountain” is lyrical, almost a picture postcard of the 1960s rural America, where two cowboys meet in a summer sheep herding camp in the mountains. Lonely and desperately hungry for warmth, they discover that they are sexually attracted to each other. Although love would be too strong a word to describe the basis for their raw sex, devoid of eroticism and yet not to too rough to frighten away their horses, the two men realise what they have lost only when they come down after summer.

Lee stretches his film over a few decades when the two men marry, have children and continue with their gay relationship. They tell their families that they are out fishing, and use the net to cover their romp.

While Ennis Del Mar’s (played by Heath Ledger) wife, Alma, sees him slipping away, completely foxed by what is happening and frightened to even give the relationship a name, Jack Twist’s (Jake Gyllenhaal) wife, Laureen, is a proud Texan who does not care about what is going on.

Ledger and Gyllenhall give excellent performances. Gyllenhall is the more demanding of the two, charming and easy going, but turning somewhat bitter at the end when he finds that the affair does not give him what he longs for. However, it is Ledger’s subdued mannerism and his mental turmoil over what is happening to him that underlines the innocence of the age, and carries the movie to a satisfying end. Some have referred to Ledger as Gary Cooper in the role of a gay cowboy, and they are not off the mark. Ledger has the beguiling attitude of Cooper, most marked in “High Noon”.

“Brokeback Mountain” helps us to relish a sense of timelessness and the beauty of American vastness. At times, it seems to plod, appears repetitive and can even be seen as boringly predictive. There is not enough sex happening on the screen, and one begins to feel that Lee was almost diffident about going the whole way here.

But if one were to overlook these, Lee’s latest work, though not in the class of his earlier “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Eat Drink Man Woman”, holds an appeal of sorts, and conveys the male bonding that American literature has so often spoken about. First written by Leslie Fiedler in 1948 in an essay where he describes the relationship between Huckleberry Finn and Jim, a slave, as “homoerotic”, Lee’s attempt may well be termed as a celluloid first to tackle this strain.

(Posted on this wesbite on July 14 2006)