A small, good thing

Hollywood Madam analyses the screen adaptation of E Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain:
“After reading the story the first time, it became clear that there was no reason why Ang Lee’s adaptation shouldn’t succeed, at least on a script level. Proulx’s brusque prose details the passing of years with brevity and elegance — each intense emotion is given just enough breath to burst with life. The rough-spoken love story of Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, two men ultimately kept apart by fear, takes the possibilities promised by a vast expanse of Western landscape and reveals how meaningless they are if left unpursued. It’s a powerful piece of work. It is also a complete and thorough treatment for a movie…
…Sometimes, with adaptations, you sometimes get to see a dull caterpillar transform into a beautiful butterfly, but most of the time you watch a beautiful caterpillar burst from the cocoon as a dull brown moth. Brokeback is the rarest of species — it emerged transformed, but still recognizable. Still just as gorgeous as before.
Just a little longer.”

And here’s Rick Moody on Brokeback Mountain:
“When I imagined seeing Ang Lee’s new film adaptation of Brokeback Mountain, based on a screenplay by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, I imagined the first kiss of its two protagonists. How many such cinematic kisses have we seen? Before how many western sunsets? How many happy endings in which the binary molecule of man and woman embracing rationalises the messy, blood-spattered colonisation of the western half of the North American continent and makes it tolerable anew. I thought I wanted the kiss between the two men in Brokeback Mountain to be long, sloppy and ravenous. Because I wanted this kiss to help upend this mythology of the west. But the film does even more than that. The first coupling between Jack and Ennis does not feature the kiss I wanted. It doesn’t feature any kiss. It features a lot of violent grunting and groaning, some embraces that look remarkably like fisticuffs, and some prominent use of a part of the body that reputedly got certain towns in the Old Testament flattened by God.
It is hard, therefore, not to think of Brokeback Mountain as an incredibly salient political statement for troubled times.”

Normally, it’s either read the book or go see the film; here, it’s do yourself a favour and do both. Brokeback Mountain’s a slim little book, barely 58 pages in small format, but few authors can pack as much into as little space as Proulx.

Brokeback Mountain’s closing lines have become famous:

“There was some open space betweeen what he knew and what he tried to believe, but nothing could be done about it, and if you can’t fix it you’ve got to stand it.”

But here’s a favourite bit from early on in the story, before anything has happened between Jack and Ennis, when they’re up on the mountainside as herder and camp tender for a “thousand ewes and their lambs”:

“During the day Ennis looked across a great gulf and sometimes saw Jack, a small dot moving across a high meadow, as an insect moves across a tablecloth; Jack, in his dark camp, saw Ennis as night fire, a red spark on the huge black mass of mountain.”





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: