Odi et amo: Brokeback 2, Kong 9

As everyone knows from reading all the deeply respectful reviews by all the critics in the world, Brokeback Mountain is a beautiful and moving film, beautifully acted, directed and photographed, truthful and courageous in its sympathetic treatment of the love of two macho men for each other.  The Wyoming[1] scenery and even the music are beautiful, too. It’s all beautiful.  I hated it.  It’s relentlessly miserable from start to finish.  Compared with this movie, Brief Encounter was a barrel of laughs. Everyone in Brokeback spends most of the time making everyone else even more miserable than before.  It doesn’t have a happy beginning, middle, or (least of all) ending.  If you have read even a single-paragraph review of it before you see it, you will know precisely what is going to happen right up to the last five or ten of the film’s interminable 134 minutes (it’s based on a short story!), and you can easily guess what’s going to happen in the last ten minutes, too.  There is no suspense, no ambiguity, no humour, no occasional lightness of touch to put the tragedy into sharper relief. It moves at a slug-like pace from start to merciful finish.   After  the first twenty minutes or so I began to resent the obligation imposed by the movie’s dolorous style to watch it with reverence; I had to resist the pressure to allow myself to be emotionally manipulated by it.  After the first hour I wanted to stand up in my seat and shout, "For God’s sake, get on with it!"  I felt increasingly like Lucky Jim at the lecture on Merrie England.  And because I know from all those respectful reviews that this was Great Art and probably the Film of the Year, if not of the decade, heading for a shoal of Oscars and already hung about with Golden Globes, I felt more and more personal shame at my visceral dislike of it.

I saw it with three companions, including my wife.  They all loved it.  Everyone but me loves it.  You  will too, if you haven’t yet seen (and loved) it.   My extremely discerning daughter says:  "You’re just wrong.  Brokeback Mountain is fantastic."  Of course she’s right, like everyone else.  Just don’t go if you’re suffering from depression.

I have hesitated to put these remarks on the blog for fear of suffering the blogosphere’s equivalent of a lynching.  I have found the reckless courage to do so in the hope that it might find a kindred spirit out there somewhere, and in the determination not to read any hostile comments.

Kong and AnnA couple of days ago we went to King Kong (187 minutes!).  It’s absolutely marvellous.  Its tongue isn’t quite so far into its cheek as to spoil the delicious, Rover-comic pathos of the scenes between pretty, lively Naomi Watts and the Great Ape with its huge sad bewildered eyes.  The computer animations and morphings are massively spectacular, totally incredible, and incredibly convincing.  Some of the battles between humans and dinosaurs, giant spiders, enormous land-based lobsters, and so forth, do go on a bit, but even they are good for a white-knuckled laugh.  The final scene on and up the Empire State Building is terrific cinema, however childish and predictable.  It doesn’t demand reverence or depend on solemnity.  It’s nicely judged in its balancing of wild adventure, sentimentality and fun, rather like the best of the Batman films only more so.  Taking into account the usual deafening trailers and crash-bang commercials that precede it, it requires a formidable commitment of time, but if you can spare it, do go.  (However, if you arrive about half an hour into the film, you won’t have missed a thing.  Kong doesn’t make his, or its, appearance until about the eighth reel.)  Not recommended for acrophobics.

One small idiosyncrasy is that King Kong could, anatomically speaking, just as well be Queen Kong, which I suppose would give it something in common with Brokeback Mountain .  I bet no-one thought of that post-modernist twist.

My wife, however, was bored stiff.  It takes all sorts.

[1] Alberta playing the part of Wyoming, I’m now told (see Comments below).  So even the scenery was ersatz! 


4 Responses

  1. Patrick says:

    I agree with you on Brokeback Mountain. A absolute horrid few hours. My girlfriend actually agreed with me on this and the only thing that stopped us from leaving was the fact we were with a few other couples (who, of course, loved the movie) and so we stuck it to the very end. Fell asleep for a few minutes until my girlfriend gave me a punch in the kidney because I was snoring. It’s a shame that great movie Constant Gardener will probably lose out to Mountain, because I thought everything about Gardener was absolutely stellar and one of the best dramas I’ve seen in years.

    Brian comments:  I agree that The Constant Gardener is a first-rate film, easily outranking Brokeback.  (And Match Point is better still!)

  2. Brian:Having seen neither film* I cannot comment on their relative merits but I loved your post-modern twist  — had me chuckling.

    *in reality, stated in case Mrs P (of 16 years standing) reads the comment above and institutes divorce proceedings.

  3. Brian, I trust you are in one of your controversy-creating modes!  Brokeback Mountain was the best film I’ve seen this year — and by a long way!  I fail to see how the relationship between Jack and Ennis fails the Barder “happiness test”. It builds slowly. No whiz bang, thank you man here. One part I found particularly memorable was the morning after the night before. The superb way the director — Ang Lee — silenced the embarrassed twosome and, after what seemed like an eternity, switches on their dialogue with Ennis saying "I’m no queer" — with Jack jumping in with "neither am I". This happiness continues after their marriages, but only when they are together huntin’ shootin’ and mostly fishin’. The film was shot in Alberta not Wyoming!  

    I think it’s pointless going to the cinema if you are not prepared to let your emotions be manipulated. All good movies do that. And this was a very, very good one.  It was in a different class to "Match Point".  


    Brian replies:  Well, Tony, there we go.  A blog without controversy is like a fish without a bicycle.  But I haven’t adapted my views in order to be controversial.  If that was the best the two men could do to make each other happy, or happier, all I can say is that they made a remarkably poor job of it.  I’m glad to have my emotions stirred and involved by a really good movie, but not to have them manipulated by mawkishness.  (All that stuff about the dead one’s shirt!  Sheesh.)  However, I am happy to accept your correction about the location:  I should have guessed that there was something Canadian about it, which matches everything else in it.  And I cordially agree that it’s not in the same class as Match Point… 

  4. Ronnie says:

    I’ve been wondering about Brokeback Mountain.  I don’t often go to the pictures but friends are urging me.   Brian’s lack of enthusiasm greatly sustained my preformed opinion.  My local cinema’s description of the film as "sensitive" strengthened it further.  The word, like "hilarious" chalked up outside a comedy theatre, seems to me a bit of a cop-out.   In the  end it was Tony who made my mind up. I don’t want to have my emotions manipulated, not for two and a quarter hours without the option of putting down the book and sorting out my own thoughts.  Besides, although it is our last chance to walk down the road to see the film, June has made an excellent stew and I have just opened a decent botle.  

    Brian comments:  Notwithstanding my own cordial dislike of this film, I wouldn’t want to discourage anyone — even you, Ronnie — from going to see it.  It’s going to be a water-cooler topic for some time, it will be pelted with Oscars, and it will be difficult to explain a failure to have seen it (although you can always say that you were put off it by reading Ephems….)   Hope you enjoyed the stew as much as the decent bottle.