JUMP CUT
A REVIEW OF CONTEMPORARY MEDIA

 

Notes

[1] For an incomparably subtler treatment of a similar love story, see Wong Kar-Wai’s profound and poetic film, Happy Together (1997). In Happy Together, two men, Lai (Tony Leung) and Ho (Leslie Cheung), are drawn to each other and become lovers. As in Brokeback Mountain, their happiest times together take place in a locale far away from where they come from: Buenos Aires. But Lai is very masculine and ashamed of his gay tendencies, while Ho is reckless and promiscuous; their affair quickly breaks apart under these pressures. Years later, they meet again by chance, and drift back together, but are still unable to surmount their personal demons. At the end of the film, Lai, who has been leading a life of almost monkish isolation, journeys to see the waterfall he had talked about visiting with Ho, and staring into its crashing surf, realizes that his love for Ho was as genuine and important as it was impossible to maintain. Wong Kar-Wai closes, ironically, with the well-known 60s pop song, I can’t see me loving nobody but you for all my life.
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[2] While Lee may not be entirely in the same league with these hallowed directors (at least not yet), his ambitions and complexities are certainly welcome in the often one-dimensional landscape of Hollywood-based filmmaking.

[3] In fact, My Own Private Idaho accomplishes in one scene the same critique that Brokeback Mountain takes most of its running time to show: the lyrical campfire scene where Mike (River Phoenix) works up the nerve to declare his love for the somewhat homophobic Scott (Keanu Reeves), who at first rebuffs him then accepts him into his arms. As in Brokeback Mountain, we see here, first of all, that love between men can flourish only in a remote location away from other people and social influences. Also, even when it “comes true,” this love remains a fantasy — untenable in the real world and doomed to collapse.

[4] These themes occur in other films of Lee’s. Similarly to Brokeback Mountain, The Wedding Banquet (1993) counterpoints a negotiated marriage (meant to appease hysterical heterosocial demands) against a homosexual relationship that is genuine and loving; while The Ice Storm (1997) functions as a critique of the “normal” family structure.
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