Two favorable (one could even say glowing) Venice Film Festival trade reviews (from Variety‘s Todd McCarthy and the Hollywood Reporter‘s Ray Bennett) of Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain graze on one side of the pasture…fine, good grass, etc. But a “whoa there, cowboy!” review from Movie City News David Poland out of Telluride suggests the possibility of gopher holes, Liberty Valance-type adversaries and unfriendly Comanches whooping and shooting arrows in the weeks and months ahead. I also need to take exception with Bennett’s lead observation, to wit: “Everything you ever imagined about the characters of John Wayne and Montgomery Clift in Red River or Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott in Ride the High Country is revealed candidly in Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, an epic Western about forbidden love.” Wouldn’t the more appropriate allusion be about Robert Redford and Paul Newman’s relationship in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? Nobody in their most perverse dreams ever imagined anything remotely askew about the father-son affection between Wayne and Clift in Red River.
I asked a friend visiting the Telluride Film Festival about Poland’s “whoa, cowboy!” reaction and he answered, “I loved Brokeback. I was overcome with so much emotion. It’s ultimately about repressing who you are, and it’s done very honestly. [Variety‘s] Pete Hammond loved it too. It played extremely well, and I’ve spoken with a lot of straight guys here who were shocked how much they liked it.”
In her Venice Film Festival review of Steven Soderbergh’s Bubble (which will soon play at the Toronto Film Festival), Variety‘s Deborah Young says that Ocean’s Eleven and Ocean’s Twelve “must have lit a fire under Soderbergh to direct a film that is, in spirit, far from Hollywood” and so rife with social commentary and “sly humor.” For his story about the lives of three doll factory workers in financially-depressed Ohio, Soderbergh “uses a non-pro cast to deftly sketch the dullness of a mid-American burg, whose sheer normality could set the scene for a Stephen King horror extravaganza [in which] an unmotivated murder, instead of stirring emotions, unveils a frightening moral vacuum. The final shots of smiling, empty-faced dolls — another classic horror image — conjure up nothing so much as a gaping void, a ‘bubble’ far from the real world.” Call me presumptuous or over-eager, but this sounds edgily penetrating in a kind of Shizopolis-meets-sex, lies vein.