Breaking “Brokeback’s” back with talk of “importance”

“Brokeback Mountain” is undeniably a beautiful film whose laconicism somehow makes its love story all the more affecting. What I wonder about is how the seemingly endless parade of stories (Frank Rich weighed in nicely today in The New York Times) about whether the allegedly close-minded heartland will open up enough to make this a hit and/or its significance as an artistic and cultural bellwether might not be obfuscating to those who have yet to see it. “Brokeback” has become an “important” film, when, in fact, every bone in its metaphorical body strains against that very thing.

All it is, is a really nice film — which is not meant to be demeaning; produce a half-dozen more films this “really nice” a year and our culture would be infinitely richer — but “Brokeback” has no agenda; it doesn’t want to instruct viewers the way a lot of the pundits commenting on it do. For that, you’d have to see “Philadelphia,” in which Tom Hanks has a couple of those Really Big Scenes That Explain It All For You. Those behind “Brokeback” have moved so far beyond that whole gays-are-people-too trope that I suspect merely bringing it up and talking about “acceptance” on the behalves of filmgoers or Americans in general may be a little embarrassing to them. Most of those who the media has found to criticize the film are people who otherwise wouldn’t be allowed to voice their opinions in sane public forums.

The fact that “Brokeback Mountain” is being hailed as “ground-breaking” says more about the country and the eager-for-controversy media than it does about the film.

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