Sunday, January 22, 2006

Finally went to see ...

... Brokeback Mountain, about which my friend and colleague Jeff Weinstein wrote a deeply moving column. My wife and I thought the film was pretty good, but not worth a four-star rating. I thought the actors were far better than the material they had to work with. Heath Ledger's performance in particular is an extraordinary demonstration of the actor's art.
That said, the film struck both Debbie and me as maybe too long and definitely too slow. I've argues for years that short stories and novellas make the best films, but this one mounted a powerful rebuttal.
I think the problem may lie with the Annie Proulx story. I've never been able to get into Proulx's stuff myself, and this tale seemed contrived. Take away the gay dimension and you have the same problem you have with a lot of illicit romance tales: It's easy to stay in love with someone you see only from time to time and under favorable circumstances. Things are a good deal different when you share a life with someone day in and day out. Then, if it works out, you come to love the other person, not in spite of their foibles, but actually because of them (as well as for a good many other reasons).
The film has some great moments, notably when Jack tells off his overbearing father-in-law and the wonderful scene toward the end between Ennis and his daughter. But I thought having Jack looking surreptiously at Ennis in the rearview mirror of his pickup right at the beginning was one of the more ham-handed telegraphings I've seen. And I thought that in real live these guys would have been more circumspect when Jack comes for his first visit to the married Ennis.
Sunday Bloody Sunday remains for me the best film yet about gay love.


  1. Thanks for the review, Frank. I nearly went to see BM last night, but the timing didn't work out. I'm still wondering, though I had a suspicion that it might be as you say -- "less than the sum of its parts"?

  2. PS I missed your last line when I read your post. I thought Sunday Bloody Sunday was brilliant. I was a teenager when I first saw it (illegally) and, like some other films of a similar era "Charlie Bubbles" (Albert Finney) and "If" (Lindsay Anderson), it was for me one of those "lifechanging" (or do I mean "life-awareness"?) films, even though I didn't fully understand all of them, I damn well wanted to! SBS was also the first time I heard Cosi Fan Tutti. (I've lost count of the number of times I've listened to it since).

  3. Hi Maxine,
    I know what you mean. Actually, that whole Lindsay Anderson trilogy -- If, O Lucky Man, and Britannia Hospital -- constitute, in my view, one of the all-time cinematic masterpieces. Brokeback Mountain, though, is definitely worth seeing, because Heath Ledger's performance should not be missed. Still, I think the critical reaction to the film, qua film, was insufficiently critical.(Oddly, I have never seen Charlie Bubbles. My Mozart breakthrough, by the way, was Cesare Siepi in Don Giovanni.)

  4. When I saw Charlie Bubbles at the age of around 17, I did not really "get" it but I responded to something in it that I didn't understand but I wanted to. I've never managed to find it on DVD or video, so I don't know if it is still available. (It had a very early, perhaps the first, performance by Liza Minnelli among other oddities). Maybe it is one of those films that is best remembered rather than seen much later in life than first viewed. I've read books like this, too -- seemed earth-shattering at 18 but kind of disappointing if you read them later (desperately trying to think of an example. Sartre's Nausea? Wharton's Birdy?)
    Can't recall who directed Charlie Bubbles, it was not Albert Finney (who starred in it) but his friend Michael someone.... I think they co-produced it and this Michael had a small part in it.

  5. According to this link, it is (1) directed by Albert Finney and (2) Liza Minelli's debut:
    Charlie Bubbles