Cinema Retrospective: Far from Heaven to Brokeback Mountain By David R. Walker In terms of retrospective pink cinema, two films stand out as an evolving understanding of being homosexual in a distinctly repressive yet ultimately American society half a century ago representing both urban and rural repressions of forbidden love. Repressive situations depicted in Far From Heaven and Brokeback Mountain are currently out of place in the 21st century growing industry of gay and lesbian weddings which has taken many American states by storm with the increasing legalization of same sex marriage from New York to Vermont. There are striking similarities between Todd Hayne’s lush 2002 film Far From Heaven set in 1950’s suburban Connecticut and Ang Lee’s beautiful expansive portrayal of an enduring love story between two Wyoming ranch hands in the 2006 Oscar winning film, Brokeback Mountain - These films are set prior to any formal social articulation of the word gay or any social movement to substantiate it, marked by the 1968 Stonewall uprising in New York. Here drag queens and homosexual activists advocated for a more formal recognition of their life style, marked by the Stonewall riots and the subsequent awakening of a gay movement in the 1970’s, emanating from the liberal centers of New York and San Francisco as later illustrated in the Gus Van Sant biopic Milk - Dennis Quaid’s character Frank Whitaker in Far from Heaven, shows a repressed homosexuality which is treated as a disease, whilst in Brokeback Mountain, Ennis del Mar’s homosexuality is hidden making him appear at times inarticulate. Set in 1963, Brokeback Mountain depicts sexy ranch hand Jack Twist being more in touch with his homosexual feelings and yearns for a lifestyle of accepted gay partnership, living blissfully in the Midwest, whilst Ennis del Mar denies his feelings, not having a sufficient discourse to realize his true emotions, and accepts that there is no place for it in their stark homophobic society of macho cowboys, ranch hands and Midwestern housewives. In Far From Heaven Whitaker’s secretive sexuality is framed against another aspect of repressed love, namely the illicit interracial affair between Cathy Whitaker a quintessential suburban housewife expertly played by Julianne Moore and Raymond Deagen played by Dennis Haysbert. In contrast the groundbreaking love affair between del Mar and Twist in Brokeback Mountain is framed against both these men being married to seemingly naïve suburban housewives beautifully played by Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams, which serves to mask their real affection for each other which naturally was strictly taboo in such a macho  environment. Both these films are superb and can stand alone as perfect cinematic illustrations of repression, but it is really the brilliantly directed Brokeback Mountain which exploded traditionally perceived images of macho cowboys but sensitively explored the sexual side of male affection in a distinctly mainstream genre: The Western. After Brokeback Mountain two men sharing a tent will never be viewed in the same light again.
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Edition 006 - May 2015