Saturday, December 10, 2005

Incapable of brevity, or: come back to the ranch, Huck honey

I can't help but sprinkle a few (hundred) words over the only event these few weeks that has had the buzz of the Villazon/Netrebko Rigoletto: Brokeback Mountain.

You know what? I think I may confine myself to writing about the music because my feelings about the work itself are very mixed, and still sorting themselves out. But my feelings about the music are of a piece. The general tenor is disapproval. The charge goes something like: Ang Lee, girl, spend some time in the flyover states before you take a stab at what they sound like. And then I spend three seconds on IMDB and realize 1) he's straight, 2) he's 5'7" which isn't relevant but adds him to my mental file of short celebs, and 3) he went to Urbana-Champaign, so there's no excuse for what I'm tempted to call an orientalist approach to the sound of life in emptier places, with my apologies to Edward Said for my cavalier use of his word.

What I mean by this is, for instance, the spliced-in-sounding three second overlays of slide guitar during the otherwise somewhat bleached-out sonic wallpaper of a guitar playing a bunch of tenths without much melodic direction. It's something like a game of telephone between John Fahey and John Williams with twenty people in between so everything is lost. And what's the excuse, in an visually very attentive period flick, for dressing a scene in a bar with a jukebox playing a Steve Earle song from quite a few years later? The excuse, I'm afraid, is that all that exotic twingy-twangy music sounds pretty much alike. For me, though, the groan-inducingest moment of musical pandering came in the final credits with the inclusion of a song by ubiquitous gay songster Rufus Wainwright. Don't get me wrong--I listened to Poses practically on tape loop for about a year, but here he sticks out like a tiara in a kicker bar.

Alright, I'm tiptoeing off the soundtrack for a moment to say that I think the exoticizing impulse toward rural manliness is the main problem with the movie. I'm going to avoid spoilers here if I can, but the opening scene, for me, played like parody, an effete fantasia of What Real Men Are Like. It is almost put over by Heath Ledger's astonishing, flawless role reading. (I never say this kind of shit but seriously, dude, just give the man the statuette and be done with it.)

Unintentional real-life tie-in: since QXR's webcast has been relegated to some AOL system that (surprise!) doesn't seem to work, I'm listening to the first bars of the NPR World of Opera/Houston Grand Opera b'cast of Trovatore thanks to a connection to Yellowstone Public Radio.

So, listen, I won't go on and on* but in bemoaning the mythos of a distant land where men like men but arent like men who like men, can I whine about the obvious way in whichHollywood that thinks very differently about women's bodies and men's? Much was made, much, of how explicit this was going to be. And [minor spoiler alert] yeah, it will be a very new moment for America to realize that Jake Gyllenhall is in fact the bottom, so it's not a sex scene that fades away at the, uh, tent-flap. But isn't it droll to put this in the basest terms and realize at the end that the count of girl parts seen (because, yes, Western culture has sexualized female breasts and not male ones--we're starting from there) is, um, four, which is to say two girls worth of parts, and the count of boy parts seen remains at zero, pretty much in line with all of cinematic history? I'm not counting a scene where they jump, naked, into a lake, from a great distance, though I'm sure some techie geniuses out there are already working with screen-freezes and the magnify tool. And I hope they have my email address.

As long as I'm going on about bodies, though, thank god they had the honesty to show Ledger after what I assume may have been an enforced period of not working out, with an only mildly idealized version of the body issued to 99% of humanity. I kind of wonder if the reason we didn't see as much of Jake Gyllenhaal was that he was sticking to a Hollywood Hunk regimen and was too cut to be a country guy who does hard labor that doesn't take place at the David Barton in Chelsea.

No, seriously, I'm going to shut up now. All else aside, my feelings about what we used to call the story would I think involve major spoilage.

Meanwhile, back in opera land, Radvanovsky is doing her thing. Her thing, since you asked, is singing "Tacea la notte" with a sobbing rubato that makes me want to slam my hand in a door to stop the endorphins before I run out. Actually, it's looking like Bruno Caproni's di Luna may stand in quite nicely for that door...

[always a later edit. Damn me for not having a program to record streaming b'casts! She even did "Tu vedrai" which for some reason I adore. I think the florid passages are not an unqualified success, so I'm no longer praying to the pagan gods to make her the next Norma, which I think was JSU's idea, but I do wish she were in something more enticing at the Met this year. I feel I ought to add something about Mishura except she's not rubbing me the wrong way or the right way. She's fine, and I don't mean that as quite the damnation it sounds.]

*totally kidding, of course I will.


Anonymous said...

he sticks out like a tiara in a kicker bar.

That's going to get used at the department party next week, some how some way.

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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