Volume 75, Number 31 | December 21 - 27, 2005

Koch On Film

By Ed Koch

Brokeback Mountain (+)
In his New York Times review Stephen Holden wrote, “This moving and majestic film would be a landmark if only because it is the first Hollywood movie to unmask the homoerotic strain in American culture that Leslie Fiedler discerned in his notorious 1948 Partisan Review essay, ‘Come Back to the Raft Ag’in, Huck Honey.’”

Fiedler, who taught at SUNY Buffalo, is best known for writing, “Love and Death in the American Novel.” The title of his Huck Finn essay sounds like camp, but I agree with Holden that this movie is a knockout. Directed by Ang Lee, it includes two first-rate actors, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, and a blockbuster story of a homosexual relationship between two cowboys, both of whom try leading customary lives with wives and children.

The film begins in 1963, spans about 20 years, and shifts from Texas to Wyoming. The down-on-their-luck men are hired by Joe (Randy Quaid) to watch over 1,000 sheep grazing on federal land on the slopes of Brokeback Mountain. Ennis (Heath Ledger), who works and sleeps in the main camp, is responsible for preparing food for the two of them. Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal) sleeps in a different location close to the sheep to protect them from coyotes and other predators. One very cold night the two men sleep in the same tent, and one entices the other to engage in sex. Their intimate scenes are sensitively developed, and their trysts which continue for years paint a picture of tender and admirable love.

Their work is seasonal, and when the season ends, Ennis and Jack return to their respective hometowns. Ennis marries Alma (Michelle Williams) and Jack marries Lureen (Anne Hathaway). Occasionally the two men are indiscrete about their ongoing relationship which results in severe consequences to their marriages. One scene conjures up memories — not depicted in the film — of the young gay man, Matthew Shepard, who was beaten and stabbed in Laramie, Wyoming, nailed to a fencepost and left to die. His two attackers were convicted of a hate crime.

The film opened to packed audiences. At noon I tried to get tickets for an 8:05 p.m. show and learned that performance had sold out on the previous day, so I had to settle on a later show. Strangely to me, the audience only barely applauded at the end of the film, although many sat through the entire credit crawl. I believe many were stunned by the impact of the performance.

World’s Fastest Indian (-)
I went to see this film because I’m a fan of Anthony Hopkins. I’m still a fan, but the next time I see one of his movies, it will be because someone whose judgment I trust said it is worth seeing. This one is not.

The movie is based on the life of motorcycle racer Burt Munro (Anthony Hopkins) who lives alone in New Zealand, is quite old and considered an oddball. Notwithstanding his age, seedy appearance and odd behavior, matronly women view him as a lover, and he obliges them whenever an opportunity presents itself.

Munro traveled to America with his motorcycle working his passage on a freighter. He had various adventures along the way, one of which involved a black, male transvestite, Tina (Chris Williams), a hot-sheet motel clerk. Riding his 1920 Indian Twin Scout motorcycle at over 200 miles per hour, Munro set a speed record in 1967 at the Salt Flats in Utah.

None of the oddball or comic incidents moved me enough to enjoy the film, but it might appeal to someone who enjoys the sport of motorcycle racing. There were only about 15 people in the theater when I saw the show, far from a mass rally.

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