Monday, January 30, 2006

Movies: Brokeback Mountain

I didn't go see this movie, because I had already seen a movie with gay cowboys in it, many years ago. This was long before this "Brokeback Mountain" thing got all this publicity as a daring, ground-breaking, Oscar-magnet movie about gay cowboys. But it is not the first movie about gay cowboys; not by a long shot.

My wife went to see it the other day and she kind of clued me in as to what it was about; it all sounded pretty tame compared to the gay cowboy movie I saw at the Apollo All-Male Movie Theater back in the 1980s. According to my wife, "Brokeback" is about Heath Ledger and the other one as two cowboys who fall in love. My wife thought it was a good, restrained love story--a little slow-moving at times. I asked her if there was any "hard core" stuff and she told me that there's some scenes where Heath and the other one start prancing around waterfalls and snapping wet towels at each other's behinds.

I don't know why the media is all set to make such a big fuss over that; that's not particularly daring--"Brokeback Mountain" sounds like pretty tame stuff, compared to "Bareback Riders", which I remember seeing on the big screen of the Apollo All-Male more than twenty years ago.

"Bareback Riders", as I recall it, was also intended as an inspiring story of sexual passion featuring gay cowboys. I saw this picture because I was working the midnight shift at a hotel in Manhattan and I had two hours to kill before coming on duty. My usual alternatives were to either get drunk and risk being fired when I showed up for work, or take in another movie.

I'm not gay, but I've always been broad-minded. So I stopped in to the Apollo to take a gander at "Bareback Riders". The film was already in progress when I entered; the theater was dark, barely occupied, and smelled just about how you'd imagine that kind of theater would smell.

I haven't given the movie much thought since that night--but the whole furor over this "Brokeback Mountain" thing put me in mind of it, and scenes and story elements came flooding back to me.

"Bareback Riders" is not so much a story as a series of fleeting cinematic impressions of gay life in the Old West. The focus of the film was not on a basically monogamous gay romance, as in "Brokeback." Quite the opposite, in fact! THESE gay cowboys cared little for monogamy or even 'romance' in the traditional sense; they seemed more interested in gratifying their fleeting and momentary passions with a seeming endless procession of fellow buckaroos, side-kicks and even an old ga-loot or two!

The action was virtually non-stop; fellows in ten gallon hats, wearing chaps and boots (but no pants) would chase other fellows playing Indians--when they caught them they would wrestle them to the ground and then use them in the most barbaric fashion. (The actors playing Indians were no more Native American than I am. They, too, were "buff" young Caucasian gentlemen whose "Indian-ness" was supposedly suggested by costumes consisting of tight loin-cloths and headbands with single feathers in them.)

The only "Western authenticity" in the film came from the fact that it was shot outdoors against a desert backdrop, which lent some visual tone to all the grunting and groaning that was going on in the foreground. It was fairly shabby as far as a committment to historical accuracy goes: no one was shown working on the railroad, but there was a surplus of circle-jerking Apaches. This was clearly the director's vision of the Old West, not that of the history books. The moral center of the film, if it had any, would seem to teach that if you dropped your gun in the Old West--you buy a new one, pardner!

Still in all, there is no doubt that this was a film made by homosexuals, about homosexuals, and for homosexuals. And I went to see it, a long time before all this "Brokeback" media buzz was launched. So that's why I don't feel like to see "Brokeback Mountain" to be "au courant."


At 8:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll start a petition to get "Bareback" on DVD. With the Bill Prendergast seal of approval.


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