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Parting Glances: Seven Golden Gropes!

By | 2018-01-16T15:04:27-05:00 January 12th, 2006|Opinions|

Maybe it’s a generational thing, but I’m beside myself trying to figure out what all the buzz is about over “Brokeback Mountain.” (It played simultaneously to good houses on all four Royal Oak Main Theater screens.)
“Brokeback Mountain” is certainly a touching story, well acted, perhaps a little too slow paced for my saddle-weary bones. But judging from the flood of thumbs-up reviews (two in the Detroit Free Press) one just might get the impression that it’s the greatest cinematic event — albeit gay — since “Gone With the Wind.”
It isn’t, of course; in spite of seven Golden Globe Best Picture nominations, seven film critic awards, and two gorgeous hunks in Levi’s, Stetsons, and boots.
Possibly it’s because I’ve seen so many gay films in my many moviegoing years that I sense Ang Lee’s filming of E. Annie Proulx’s literary gem is just one more of the out-of-the-closet genre — some great, some mediocre, some downright exploitation. (By the way: do see “TransAmerica.”)
Don’t get me wrong. As a cinematic hip-rocket in the ongoing cultural wars, “Brokeback Mountain” casts rainbow streamers among dark clouds of homophobia; and our blue-state audiences apparently like these back-in-the-saddle-for-two dramatic salvos.
But how quickly we forget! In the late-70s that little Italian masterpiece of drag comedy, “La Cage aux Folles” caused a stir, moving from art theaters to neighborhood moviegoing venues. “Cage” birthed “Cage II,” a long-running Broadway musical, and finally a glittering remake of the original film starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane.
And for shock value, “Sunday Blood Sunday” (1971) — starring Peter Finch, as a gay Jewish doctor in love with a bi young artist (Murray Head), who has a girlfriend (Glenda Jackson). The film’s full-throated kiss between Peter and Head literally drew gasps and sent a regiment of uninitiated straights fleeing down the aisle in full-buttered popcorn aftershock and potty-time retreat.
Ten years earlier there was “The Victim” (1961), with courageous Dirk Bogarde playing a married English barrister blackmailed for homosexuality. (Bogarde, himself gay, was among the first big-name stars to portray an openly gay character.) The film was instrumental — along with the Wolfenden Report on Homosexuality (1957) — in changing British law affecting sexual acts between consenting male adults.
How times have changed. Or have they?
Not everyone is riding cowpoke style on the “Brokeback Mountain” roundup. There are a few whose saddle seating is bass-ackwards. Ted Baehr, for one, a reviewer for the Christian Film & Television Commission. Our Teddy Bare finds the film, “abhorrent . . . twisted, laughable, frustrating and boring neo-Marxist homosexual propaganda.”
No! No! It’s beyond propaganda says Steven D. Greydanus, critic for Decent Films: “Brokeback Mountain [has] a point of view — a profoundly problematic one, one that makes it potentially far more insidious than mere propaganda.” (Homo, homo on the range.)
Christianity Today, the monthly for evangelicals, tepidly sums things up: “Christian film critics are approaching their reviews in different ways. Most acknowledge that homosexuality is considered a sin. And they also acknowledge that Ang Lee portrays those who reject homosexuality as old-fashioned, naive, and oppressive.
“Some Christian critics respond by completely condemning the film. Some even stoop to labeling it with derogatory nicknames; one Christian critic even called the Golden Globe Awards, which gave ‘Brokeback’ several nominations, the ‘Golden Gropes.’ Some seek to sift through it, acknowledging what is well done, and questioning what is faulty. And others think it’s a sin to consider the film at all.”
As BTL sees it, the Fundies just don’t want gay cowboys shepherding anybody’s bleating and fleecy flocks. Baa humbug(gers)!

About the Author:

Charles Alexander