Monday, January 02, 2006

Brokeback Mountain Review

I was thinking of seeing Brokeback Mountain because a friend asked me to see it with him, and I had heard it was a good movie in that it was artistic and thought-provoking. I was getting ready to scrounge up the ten bucks when I read the above review online. I'm glad I saved my much needed money for better things.

The meaning of a work of art cannot be reduced to a thesis or proposition; if it can, it is not art but propaganda, a tract. Brokeback Mountain is not a tract. Still, there is a perspective at work in its depiction of these characters and events. The film does not argue, but assumes, that the pain suffered by men like Jack and Ennis and those around them is the result of what is and isn’t permitted by entrenched social attitudes of intolerance and hate, which constrain such men from following their bliss, and push them into conventional arrangements that are ultimately truly satisfactory to no one. Compared to this film, the euthanasia advocacy of Million Dollar Baby, the anti-Catholicism of The Magdalene Sisters and and the abortion activism of The Cider House Rules are practically child’s play.

In the end, in its easygoing, nonpolemical way, Brokeback Mountain is nothing less than a critique not just of heterosexism but of masculinity itself, and thereby of human nature as male and female. It’s a jaundiced portrait of maleness in crisis — a crisis extending not only to the sexual identities of the two central characters, but also to the validity of manhood as exemplified by every other male character in the film. It may be the most profoundly anti-western western ever made, not only post-modern and post-heroic, but post-Christian and post-human.

This is why I love Catholic film critics.

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