Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain” by Michael Koresky (December 5, 2005)

Even on the eve of “Brokeback Mountain”‘s release, it’s difficult to separate the actual movie onscreen from the media attention that’s been swirling around it for months. Is Ang Lee’s effective tragic romance to be viewed as just another epic love story unfolding under a panoramic azure sky or as a groundbreaking mainstream cinematic evocation of homosexual love? While it’s beyond doubtful that “Brokeback,” even if it proves to be a multi-Oscared box-office success, will open the floodgates for a bevy of studio-financed gay-themed movies, its very conception seems to have created a heavy social burden that the film simply may not be able to carry. And I say this with the utmost respect and generosity of spirit because “Brokeback Mountain” is nothing if not modest–an even-tempered, strong-willed, matter-of-fact drama that has more in common with the evocative American landscapes of John Ford than the bland do-goodism of the American independent film scene. “Brokeback,” by sheer lack of comparable contemporaries, feels fresh, yet Ang Lee’s sturdy craftsmanship does well by not assuming grandiloquence. What’s most lovely here is that, unlike all the chatter surrounding the film’s journey from production to festival to eventual release, Ang Lee lets the story speak for itself.

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