Tuesday, December 20, 2005

West of Eden

by Gary Indiana

You could infer from the production notes that Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain would be useful if it came in a spray can: Spritz a little on a fundamentalist and change him into a liberal, or neutralize a whole church basement of rednecks with a full blast.

This film is inflected to instill something akin to high moral dudgeon. Its depiction of ordinary Americans trapped in loveless marriages and dead-end jobs, its laconic naturalism, and the . . . well, natural way its two male protagonists find themselves, one drunken night on the mountain, riding bareback in a sleeping bag, build an industrial-strength case for breaking the mold, following your heart, and Daring To Be Different. How can anyone find happiness otherwise? On the other hand, the film makes the explicit point that deviating just a tad from the norm will probably lead you to a brutally violent end at the hands of your neighbors. But maybe if they saw this movie . . . ?

The "problem film" often equates sexual excitement with "love," and often ends with the reconciled lovers implicitly living happily ever after—not the case here, but probably never the case when sex is the only real adhesive between two people, anyway. Even so, Brokeback Mountain (opening December 9) suggests that the opposite could be true, if only other people could respect all kinds of love, not just the kind they imagine they themselves enjoy. Read More

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