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Brokeback Mountain - The review goes live
Admist a flurry of back room activity the Verdict finally is set to take on the movie of the year that has everyone talking. You can't mention BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN without offending somebody around here, and I am so proud to be sharing the review with Jennifer Malkowski who brings a unique voice to the site. She's well educated in gay and lesbian cinema, and really takes me to task for calling BROKEBACK a universal experience. Interestingly enough when I posted my initial review of the film on the site in this blog I got a lot of the same reaction from some readers. Here is part of an e-mail I wrote directly to Jennifer to open up a dialogue on a very interesting topic. What does this movie mean as a cultural event?
Hey there! I just read our review, and I am very glad you included your dissenting opinion. It will definitely balance out the piece quite well, and should spark some interesting debate (hopefully) on the boards or at least elsewhere. I posted a review in my blog of the movie, and immeadiately got hate e-mails from a politically active gay man. I called it universal. So that's why I am so glad you got to say what you did in it. Hopefully I won't be bombarded again.
But to me, the film doesn't have a particularly strong queer voice and does feel a little diluted in several aspects. Here are some things I noted that I wouldn't put in the review:
1) The willingly gay partner ends up duly punished for his behavior before the final reel of the film (shades of the production code still CHILDREN'S HOURing its way - that's an exaggeration, but an interesting parallel).
2) Ang Lee, Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana, Heath Ledger, and Gylenhaal aren't remotely gay. I find it a little disappointing. Had it been Harvey Fierstein, Gregg Araki, or a queer filmmaker it would have seemed more revolutionary to me. I'm interested which Araki film you were citing in the review? I thought MYSTERIOUS SKIN is actually the better queer voiced film of the year, opposed to BROKEBACK because it came from a man who lived it (even though Araki is notoriously bisexual).
3) I do find your whole section on how lesbians can be shown graphically more often than gay male sex interesting. We do see more girls together in the bedroom, yet I see the "evil" lesbian popping up - Catherine Deneuve played a lesbian vampire in THE HUNGER out to recruit straight girl Susan Sarandon, Sharon Stone was an ice pick wielding bisexual vamp who seemed to fall for the guy who killed her lesbian lover, Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly play sapphic criminals in BOUND, and Gina Gershon again played a lesbian showgirl who's sexuality condemned her to actually breaking a leg backstage. How far have we really come? Even David Lynch rather ruthlessly made his two girls in MULHOLLAND DRIVE rather sinister when you consider what is really supposed to be happening.
4) Cable seems to be more primed in the fight for acceptance and even radical programing. QUEER AS FOLK was critically appalling, but yet you couldn't get much more graphic. That series seemed like soft porn every week. And then came the equally ballsy L WORD to pick up the torch with the girls there. Yikes!
Ang Lee seemed to want BROKEBACK to be universal. Controversial as that may be, I still see his point.
Thank you again though. I admire your work, and can't wait for the debate to begin. BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN truly is a cultural force this year. I'll be interested to see what happens next. Rumor has it Brad Pitt is going to accept a role in a major studio release gay themed film. We'll see if it happens. My biggest fear is Hollywood may be sending out a contradictory message though - it's okay to play gay because that will get you awards and attention, just as long as you thank your wife or husband in the acceptance speech. Where's the real gay Hollywood epic?