Monday, March 06, 2006

More About Movies

To prove that I'm not just some big cynic for disliking Crash, I thought I'd repost something I wrote for another blog.

So, I went and saw Brokeback Mountain the other day. I mean, why not. I figured, what self-respecting otherwise heterosexual academic doesn't have one or two, or a dozen, 'conference buddies'?

Actually, I went in with a very bad attitude. Cynical, one might say. Surely, I thought, this is just the "liberal" version of the Passion of the Christ [ed. In hindsight, maybe this was Crash]. That is, the movie we liberals are supposed to support, even if its rubbish. Even though we know its rubbish. (Because, let's not be mistaken, the story of Jesus getting the shit kicked out of him wasn't particularly interesting either.) My thought was that the homosexual cowboy thing, while not entirely contrived, because I'm sure it happened often enough back in the cowboy days, was mostly just to jar our expectations of either homosexuals or cowboys, a jolt made all the more explicit by the juxtaposition of their bourgeois heterosexual relationships, with the intention of making us all better, more accepting individuals.

Now, does the movie do this? Yeah. Undoubtedly. And yet -- and perhaps this is why I resist being finally identified as a cynic, because I do not think our critiques can ever stop there, but rather we must go through cynicism, in order that we might find something more, for lack of a better time, human -- Brokeback Mountain is more. A common assessment is that the movie is heartbreaking. And it is. Devastatingly, in fact. Relationships, and not just the homosexual one, are delicately portrayed in all their human, and thus often dissatisfying and uncomfortable, complexity.

Last year, the supposed celebration of monogamy in March of the Penguin was hailed as the mark of true family families. Fuck those cute penguins, though. The family values of Brokeback Mountain are the family values I know. Granted, I've not (yet) known anybody who had a gay lover while being married, but I've known plenty of people who loved their kids but didn't know how to show it until just nearly the kid didn't want that love anymore. I know people who love being together, as a couple or a community, but don't actually love one another. And I know a helluva lot about loving people I cannot have, either because of either internal or external pressures (or a mixture of both). The movie, more than a celebration of tolerance, is a celebration of love as frailty.

In love we do not simply make ourselves stronger, or more truly ourselves; indeed, if we become ourselves at all in love, and I think we do, we do so only in weakness and brokenness. (Is this, I wonder, some bastardized Gnostic notion of love?) Perhaps this is why in most long-term relationships there are periods of forgetfulness, or even flat denials that "I don't love you anymore." And perhaps those relationships that last are those that do not so much remember the past, or beckon its return, but actually find a certain, maybe but momentary, sublime awareness and acceptance that the person I love now is not, and cannot be, the same person I fell in love with.

I don't know that it should've won Best Picture. Correction: I don't care which movie wins Best Picture. Just saying ... I'm not hating on Crash for the reasons a lot of you might be thinking.