Sunday, February 05, 2006

Brokeback Revisited

Saw the movie yesterday with Tim, Brian, and the gang. I wasn't really looking forward to it. I wanted to hang with the guys, sure. But I wasn't thrilled about sitting inside a theater on a beautiful Hawaiian Saturday afternoon.

'Cause I already knew the story, right? I had already completely deconstructed it in my mind and I just was not interested. I had been dragged to too many shitty romances, gay and straight. I'm usually the one sitting dead center trying to stifle his gag reflex while every sap around bawls their eyes out.

But most friends told me to just shut up and go, and I can never resist peer pressure for long. And so I went.

And I was wrong. I was so, so wrong. The movie hit me somewhere deep and it hit hard. It took me back to every lonely place I've ever known. It was powerful enough at the end, sure. But the movie is affecting me even more today, the day after. I still can't shake the tears.

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From a 2005 interview with Annie Proulx in The Advocate

AP: Have you gotten any response from gay organizations?

Proulx: No. When the story was first published eight years ago, I did expect that. But there was a deafening silence. What I had instead were letters from individuals, gay people, some of them absolutely heartbreaking. And over the years, those letters have continued and certainly are continuing now. Some of them are extremely fine, people who write and say, "This is my story. This is why I left Idaho, Wyoming, Iowa." Perhaps the most touching ones are from fathers, who say, "Now I understand the kind of hell my son went through." It's enormously wonderful to know that you've touched people, that you've truly moved them.

From an 1999 interview in the Missouri Review:

Interviewer: Have you ever fallen in love with one of your characters?

Proulx: I have never fallen in love with one of my characters. The notion is repugnant. Characters are made to carry a particular story; that is their work. The only reason one shapes a character to look as he or she does, behave and speak in a certain way, suffer particular events, is to move the story forward in a particular direction. I do not indulge characters nor give them their heads and "see where they go," and I don't understand writers who drift downriver in company with unformed characters. The character, who may seem to hold center stage in a novel, and in a limited sense does, actually exists to support the story. This is not to say that writing a character is like building a model airplane. The thoughtful and long work of inventing a believable and fictionally "true" person on paper is exhilarating, particularly as one knowingly skates near the thin ice of caricature.

Interviewer: You have been criticized by some for overemphasizing the bad luck and failure of you characters—for not finding the mitigating factor in their lives, if only in the way you frame their stories.

Proulx: It is difficult to take this as a serious criticism. America is a violent, gun-handling country. Americans feed on a steady diet of bloody movies, television programs, murder mysteries. Road rage, highway killings, beatings and murder of those who are different abound; school shootings—almost all of them in rural areas—make headline news over and over. Most of the ends suffered by characters in my books are drawn from true accounts of public record: newspapers, accident reports, local histories, labor statistics for the period and place under examination. The point of writing in layers of bitter deaths and misadventures that befall characters is to illustrate American violence, which is real, deep and vast.

And from her website, 2005

There is one lie in this interview [from the Missouri Review] where I said I had never fallen in love with any of my characters. I think I did fall in love with both Jack and Ennis, or some other strong feeling of connection which has persisted for the 8 years since the story was written.

And finally, from the short story:

What Jack remembered and craved in a way he could neither help nor understand was the time that distant summer on Brokeback when Ennis had come up behind him and pulled him close, the silent embrace satisfying some shared and sexless hunger.

1 comment:

Alastair said...

Hmmm ... some of your "buds" down here in Sydney (we're your "mates", Mike, for crying out loud - "buds" are little sticks with cotton wool on each end that we use for cleaning our ears and applying our eye shadow) went to see Bareback Mountain the day after it opened. And, quite frankly, we were pretty much all underwhelmed and disappointed. I know that in different ways they were both under-resourced emotionally, educationally and financially but is California REALLY that far from Wyoming and Texas??? Didn't you just want to stand up in the cinema and burst into "Go West! Life is peaceful there ..."? And it might have helped if we'd understood even half of whatever it was Heath was mumbling. Anyway 4/10 ...


By the way, I'm glad you share my fetish for the odd Latin phrase but I suggest you sack the lawyer who gave you that translation of "nolle prosequi". Nolle = to be unwilling & prosequi = to proceed. (It was Vann, wasn't it?) My current delight is using "viz" or, better still, "videlicet" instead of "namely". I'm also thinking of reverting to the use of "inst" and "ult" in my letters when referring to dates. And speaking of which, I'd better get back to writing a few ...

A bientot, mon copain Yankee!