Saturday, June 24, 2006

Brokeback Mountain


Dir: Ang Lee (The Ice Storm)

Second time through, see my previous review.

The first time with this film, I was caught up in the public theater of it. I watched it politically, to see how it positioned itself and made its argument. I thought of its broader message and how audiences might respond. Brokeback had become a polarizing text, and I over analyzed it as a result.

This time, I just watched it. And I liked it even more. Like all brilliant films, subsequent viewings reveal an economy of script, a depth of symbolism, and a richness of character that continues to reward. I liked the movie even more the sceond time.

I underestimated the strength of the love story initially. Not that I panned it, far from it if you read my earlier review. But I had the impression that Brokeback was one among many great love stories. I think now that it is one of the best, a retelling of a classic theme but with a significant twist (pun intended). The first act, on the mountain, is a masterpiece of dense narrative told with minimalist material. I thought initially that the reasons why these men were in love were given short shrift, that I hadn't really gotten involved enough in them to really care about their later lives. But Lee and McMurtry were too smart for me, and I was too distracted. Their love is silent, and so too is their courtship. I found it very moving.

I was too worried the first time about deciding if this film should win an Oscar. But it should be taken on its own terms. I think Brokeback deserves multiple viewings and a place among the best love stories of the decade.