Saturday, December 17, 2005

I Told You I Would

Yeah, I went and watched Brokeback Mountain in a nice posh LandMark Bethesda movie hall with friends. Rush hour traffic delayed us by about 30 minutes so we had to sit in the first row. Believe it or not the hall was full even for a matinee show. The audience was made up of two kinds of people - middle aged white gay men with their friends and family and groups of teenage girls (yes, you read it right!). The members of the second group could barely keep their emotions under control and once again we had to put up with juvenile squeals and squeaks. The movie is a beautiful love story made even more haunting by the vistas of Wyoming where it is set. And like all Ang Lee movie it moves in a slow, lyrical manner. The acting is flawless and now I know why Heath Ledger is being billed for an Oscar nomination.

The brouhaha surrounding the movie is meaningless. As the Boy put it -" it is too sophisticated to be made a political statement out of". Like last year's Milllion Dollar Baby it tells an universal human tale of love, longing and attachment. Brokeback Mountain is as much about gay rights as The Million Dollar Baby was pro choice. It is sad that the liberal left tries to make political statements out of these movies, while the morally outraged right treats them as an assault on family values. If only some of us could look beyond our narrow confines and enjoy them for what they are - fine movies which do tug at your heart strings.


Amlan said...

'Politics' is not disjoint from life. A 'political statement' is simply a statement of preference which becomes powerful when there is an issue at stake. A lining up of many such expressions result in the 'politics' behind an issue. Often such lining up of public sentiment serves an agenda.

For instance, Brokeback Mountain will serve (add) as a case in point for many people who have been for a long time trying to explain the nature of same-sex relationships to people who are a lot less sympathetic than you are on the issue. For them a statement of preference, given that there is an interest at stake and a point to vindicate, is indeed a political statement. Similarly when you express your preference (or your desire not to express a preference) you are adding to the pool of opinions and to the politics.

Why shouln't folks pushing for gay rights use Brokeback Mountain to make a political statement... here is an instance that brings forth something that they share in common with their "straight" counterparts, as you point out in your blog.

Art always has played a role in the development of the social conscience, and often through the 'politics' surrounding the risque issues that it has taken up without fear.

Anyesha said...

I find it to be a sad commentary of our times when Hollywood movies have to do our politics for us, when films have to take stances for us…stances and ideas which should be commonplace thinking . But then it is merely an art form and art as you say has always been a mirror to the ills of society (sometimes at great peril to itself). Art also seeks to entertain...doesn't it. Art also intends to tells a story, serve as an oral, written and now a celluloid history of our times.

So when gay rights activists use this movie to further their cause, what happens...nothing much, it just gets tagged as a gay movie. As a tolerant person, I would love the idea of every homophobe watching this movie because this movie gives names and faces (rather handsome, all American ones at that) to gay love, to something they hate. I believe a lot of homophobia stems from fear and ignorance, a them Vs. Us syndrome of sorts and to this end this movie might help dispel some of that.

But this will not happen after the gay rights folk have hijacked the movie as their own. After that only the tolerant folks like us will watch it (nothing gained there) or a few intolerant ones who will go and watch it merely to vilify it. If this movie can serve as a poster boy for gay rights, it can also be easily subverted by the other camp to prove what they have been saying for so long, namely that this so called lifestyle choice wrecks family, fills you with guilt, is destructive etc. etc.

And in this mud slinging, the moderate ones who have still not made up their minds will not step into the theatre. The Passion of Christ might be a really good movie for all I know. But I never watched it because in my mind it is so inextricably linked with the religious right (who made a outrageous carnival of it) and anti Semitism (one of the many charges leveled against ). I consider myself quite open minded but I am also an average human being who sometimes finds it difficult to rise beyond prejudice. And this is what I fear happens when we try to make political statements…we prejudice people. I laud the fact that this movie makes the giant leap for all gay themed movies…the one from the independent, small , low budget category and into mainstream consciousness. That itself is progress for me. Now the next hurdle is to get most people to see it and I strongly believe mixing it up with politics does not serve that purpose. But then this merely my viewpoint.

(Jeez, this should be a post by itself!!!)

Amlan said...

I think the word 'activist' and the act of 'activism' carries very negative connotations for you, and unfortunately, sometimes not unjustifiably. But really activism is suppposed to involve gentle persuasion rather than violent conversion.

Indeed, you have pointed out very rightly that when activism gets associated with violent conversion the ones in the middle are left cold and unfortunately the 'battle' of ideas continues between the opposite camps neither of whom influence the ones in the middle who they seek to influence... resulting in activism being nothing short of being annoying and futile. Of course, you are assuming that most people are in the middle and undecided.

With 11 states passing anti-gay ligislation in the recent past, that assumption might need to be revisited. Under the circs. a movie such as this, with its emphasis on the love story rather than the fact that the protagonists are both men helps at wooing the middle and the gay folks can only be hopeful for it to influence the rather harsh politics of our times.

Going back to art... well the arts and the humanities, in my opinion, serve more as a social conscience than as entertainment. The entertaining aspect of it is the sugar coat on the bitter pill.

Which is not to say that all movies should be socially motivated... some of them serve as pure entertainment (or at least for some) and some are the sugar coated pill.

Also, I am not sure if Brokeback Mountain is a Hollywood movie. Its produced by Focus which usuallu pursues independent movies. While we are on the topic heres what Advocate had to say about the movie:

Anyesha said...

Hmmm...interesting article. Now we know why we had to contend with those giggly girls at the theatre. And I knew this was produced by a production company which normally produces indie films...but then its production values are anything but indie. Probably there should be a new genre for these movies which look good, have lavish production values, mainstream actors but on the whole our made for the watching pleasure of a very small crowd which seeks something different from the usual trash. Some that come to mind immediately are Lord of War, there.

Anoop said...

(1) The movie was shot in Alberta. So, its Alberta NOT Wyoming.

(2) Focus Features is the specialty film unit of Universal Pictures (Universal Studios which is a part of NBC Universal which in turn is a part of GE). So, its 'indie' like the way Miramax is.

Anyesha said...

The Film Guru has spoken...hush now...that my dearies is the final word on this subject.
Thanks Anoop for sharing the info. The who-owns-what of Production companies in Hollywood is as convoluted as the who-owns-what amongst car manufacturers...did that even make any sense.
Okay, Alberta is pretty too...but it sure must look like Wyoming if they shot the movie there..don't you think so?

Anoop said...

I have been to Calgary, Alberta. It sucked big time. Think of a mini-Chicago in the middle of Tundra. Thats Calgary for you. Alberta is the kind of place that looks beautiful on a movie screen or your computer desktop but try living there for more than ten days. I admit romanticism isn't exactly my kind of a thing.

Anyesha said...

Nope...darling it clearly isn't. Here we are bunch of hopeless romantics who want to just mope on about the movie and be all sad and dreamy eyed about all the what if scenarios, and you insist on bringing up reality.

And clearly blogging on your own blog is also not your make one very good commenter though.

Amlan said...

well! well! I am headed to Calgary in May... I guess I'll find out how beautiful it really is then! Of course, I'm not watching Brokeback Mountain (sad love stories isn't my thing...)!