Thursday, February 02, 2006
Brokeback Mountain Has As Little To Do With Cowboys As It Has To Do With Gaiety. Mr Gary Cooper Must Be Spinning In His Chaps
One of the travails of a life on the boards is the requirement, every year, to view all of the films which have been shortlisted for BAFTA awards. I qualify for this dubious pleasure because of my role as a screenwriter and extra on the little-remembered television serial, The Miffed Loons, which was Scottish television's response to the drama of the Angry Young Men, and featured the travails of Hector (or Eck), a young man from Laurencekirk, who rejected a job in the canneries of Angus to try his luck in the toon (Dundee). Sadly, the bright lights were a mirage, and he returned with his tail between his legs to run an agricultural supplies shop on the outskirts of Fettercairn. By the time the series ended, he had grown a moustache, and was operating a mobile discotheque from the back of an Austin Allegro.
But I digress. My point is the BAFTAs, and the oddness of the films which are shortlisted for awards.
I may offer my views on the complete shortlist at a future date, but I feel most urgently compelled to mention Brokeback Mountain, the "gay cowboy" picture, which has as much to do with gaiety as it does with cowboys, which is to say, not much.
Now, it is not that I am a prude. During the summers of my youth I was a volunteer at the open air pond in Stonehaven, and I witnessed things there that I hesitate to recall, only some of them involving water-wings. As an amateur thespian I am familiar with "theatrical" behaviour, though I don't enjoy having it - pardon my French - rammed down my throat.
When it comes to cowboy pictures, I am a traditionalist. I require some shooting, some Indians, and an ending where the cowboy shuns domesticity in favour of a lonely life out on the range. I am on the side of Mr John Wayne and Mr Gary Cooper. I favour dusty, one horse towns in which the saloon doors are kicked open by a stranger in a black hat, causing the piano man to stop playing and the local "good-time gal" to freeze in the middle of a can-can, revealing a vast undergrowth of silky bloomers. I like an incorruptible sherriff and a tame Indian squaw. If possible, the theme tune should include whistling. If modernity is required, let it be Mr Burt Lancaster, dying under a rock in Ulzana's Raid.
None of these tropes is present in Brokeback Mountain.
Certainly, Wyoming looks pretty. But the film is a love story in which the moments of affection resemble violence. The lady characters are less sophisticated than Mrs Wilma Flintstone. And the diction of Mr Heath Ledger (a nominee for Best Actor) is deplorable; at its clearest, he sounds like Mr Marlon Brando, talking in his sleep with a mouth full of Skoal Bandits.