Thursday, December 22, 2005

Annie Proulx's "Brokeback Mountain"

What with the opening of the movie version I figured I wouldn't be able to find Annie Proulx's short story in the library. The New Yorker, the magazine in which the story was originally published, briefly had it posted on their website but it looked long and I'm not much for reading long on the computer.

I searched the library catalog and discovered Still Wild, an anthology of short fiction set in the West edited by Larry McMurtry. McMurtry wrote the screenplay for Brokeback.

The story is a bit muckier than the glistening cleanliness of the movie, "The room stank of semen and smoke and sweat and whiskey ..." But there's not much that happens in the movie that isn't already in the story. Some scenes are fleshed out versions of the story's summaries. "[A] short dirty fight" is all the description Proulx gives but the movie has Ennis punching the driver of a pickup which has just avoided running him down, the driver getting out and putting in his own series of punches.

My favorite scene, where Jack & Ennis have been carrying on this semi-annual affair of the mountains for twenty years and they finally have an are-you-being-faithful-to-me moment, is in the story almost word for word what you hear in the theatre. When I said that to Kent he asked, "So what does Ennis say?"

Ennis, as depicted by Heath Ledger, is a mumblemouth. He's getting lots of critical praise for his performance. But I liked Jake Gyllenhaal's Jack better. Or maybe I just liked Jack and didn't like Ennis.

When Jack suggests they go to Mexico, somewhere not so damn cold as these mountains, Ennis gets suspicious. Maybe Jack has gotten same Mexico tail? Boys? "'I got a say this to you one time, Jack, and I ain't foolin'. What I don't know ... all them things I don't know could get you killed if I should come to know them."

"foolin'" and "killed" were, I think, the only words I caught in the theatre.

Nice to see Jack not put up with this shit. "'I'll say it just one time. Tell you what, we could a had a good life together, a fuckin real good life.'"

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