Brokeback Mountain Screencaps ~ The Kiss Scenes: Part II
Warnings: Adult content for discussion of sex, erotica, homosexuality, slash, etc. No explicit images, though.
Well! I certainly learned a lot reading the comments from my introductory post, particularly as they touched upon Brokeback Mountain -- both the short story and the film based on it -- when it came to watching real love scenes between a man and a man.
Yesterday, I singled out the kissing scenes as the "love scenes" of Brokeback Mountain, dismissing the opening tent scene (murkily but unmistakably showing anal intercourse) as abrupt, wordless, and quick (not to mention, from behind, not face to face), raw sex.
(Not that "from behind" love-making can't be intimate, but it didn't look like it in the film scene for many viewers.)
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Before I discuss the screencaps per se, I want to mention a thought spurred by Bagma's comments to my previous post. She told how persons she knew didn't mind the idea of men in love, but were repulsed ("disgusted") by the spectacle of men having sex with each other. I began a reply to her, but stopped.
It occurred to me, writing the reply, that the most explicit, graphic erotic interchanges most viewers of mainstream films ever see are scenes showing men kissing. (In fact, kissing is the most graphically depicted interchange shown between men and women!)
So, it may be that film viewers are more disturbed by the sight of men kissing simply because that's the most graphic thing they are made to witness. Sex scenes, whether they are of rapes or consensual intercourse or digital or oral sex, in mainstream films -- whether between gay or straight people -- are never fully graphic, which would move them into the realm of porn. They show the people under the sheets (or maybe fully naked), but viewers don't actually see erect members entering mouths, sliding through palms, or entering orifices of any sort.
Mainstream sex scenes are shown mostly through the introductory images, hands moving over flesh, eye contact, a grapple, feet twining, interspersed with facial reaction shots. Very highly rated mainstream films will show more (bare buttocks going through the motions of pumping or grinding, for instance), but not all.
In kissing scenes, however, everything is shown, since filming faces is permitted. Everything in a kiss is shown, from the pressings of lips with feigned passion (whether listless or more zealous), to real, open-eyed intimacy, the sort that makes the pulses of viewers beat faster -- even if the kissers are fully clothed. Bearing that in mind, maybe kissing scenes are more intimidating to watch simply because they actually are so explicit.
And, as Bagma pointed out, when audiences watch sex scenes, whether between men and women, women and women, or men and men, the audience knows that they aren't really doing anything. If they were, it would be porn, instead. But in kiss scenes, the actors really are kissing. And if it looks fake, the audience can tell.
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Below I am displaying a series of screencaps that originally I did not intend to make. It was only the comments of Casey, from the previous entry, that made me go back and make caps of the "First Tent Scene". This scene is so terribly dark on a small home computer screen, it is literally indecipherable.
Here is an unretouched cap from the scene:
As you can see, I did these virtually blind, working from the soundtrack and bits of dialogue.
Once the caps were made, I could tweak the images, brightening them, until I could see what was in the scenes so that I could select which were "keepers" and which were not. None of these are what I would call good screencaps, but the darkness of the scene makes it impossible to make the sort I could be pleased with. Nevertheless, murky and blurry as they are, they do reveal quite a bit about the playing of the scene.
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The scene screencapped below is from the initial tent scene. In the film, after a night of talk and drinking, Jack goes off to the tent to sleep. Ennis insists on sleeping by the campfire. It is too late to ride back out to the sheep.
The book scene goes like this:
"Too late to go out to them damn sheep," said Ennis, dizzy drunk on
all fours one cold hour when the moon had notched past two. The meadow
stones glowed white green and a flinty wind worked over the meadow, scraped
the fire low, then ruffled it into yellow silk sashes. "Got you a extra
blanket I'll roll up out here and grab forty winks, ride out at first
"Freeze your ass off when that fire dies down. Better off sleepin
in the tent."
"Doubt I'll feel nothin." But he staggered under canvas, pulled his
boots off, snored on the ground cloth for a while, woke Jack with the
clacking of his jaw.
In the film scene, too, Ennis is shown waking up, shivering.
"Get in here!" Jack shouts groggily, woken by the noise of Ennis' chattering. Ennis stumbles in, dragging his covers and falls into sleep behind Jack.
Time passes. The moon emerges from the clouds.
Jack, as if still dreaming, reaches behind him for the hand of Ennis, who is fast asleep, and pulls it down under the rough covers. Ennis bolts up out of sleep, disoriented. Jack turns to confront him. They hold the moment, then Jack pulls off his jacket.
"What are you doing?" Ennis asks. He seizes Jack, but doesn't do anything more. Jack doesn't answer but doesn't let go. Ennis seems torn between wanting to slug Jack or kiss him, forehead to forehead like rams, but arrested, mid-attack.
Then the unbuckling proceeds. Ennis spins Jack around, and, in the dark, enters and takes him. A few grunts, snuffs, and groans, and it's over.
Following directly from the previous section, this is the passage on which the film scene is based in Annie Proulx's short story. It is similar but not identical:
"Jesus Christ, quit hammerin and get over here. Bedroll's big
enough," said Jack in an irritable sleep clogged voice. It was big enough,
warm enough, and in a little while they deepened their intimacy
considerably. Ennis ran full throttle on all roads whether fence mending or
money spending, and he wanted none of it when Jack seized his left hand and
brought it to his erect cock. Ennis jerked his hand away as though he'd
touched fire, got to his knees, unbuckled his belt, shoved his pants down,
hauled Jack onto all fours, and, with the help of the clear slick and a
little spit, entered him, nothing he'd done before but no instruction manual
needed. They went at it in silence except for a few sharp intakes of breath
and Jack's choked "Gun's goin off," then out, down, and asleep.
In the film, the morning-after resembles the book's description, but otherwise the book and film develop differently, in my opinion.
Here is the short story's description of the aftermath of their night in the tent, and what happened during the rest of the summer:
Ennis woke in red dawn with his pants around his knees, a top grade
headache, and Jack butted against him; without saying anything about it,
both knew how it would go for the rest of the summer, sheep be damned.
As it did go. They never talked about the sex, let it happen, at
first only in the tent at night, then in the full daylight with the hot sun
striking down, and at evening in the fire glow, quick, rough, laughing and
snorting, no lack of noises, but saying not a goddam word except once Ennis
said, "I'm not no queer," and Jack jumped in with "Me neither. A one shot
thing. Nobody's business but ours." There were only the two of them on the
mountain, flying in the euphoric, bitter air, looking down on the hawk's
back and the crawling lights of vehicles on the plain below, suspended above
ordinary affairs and distant from tame ranch dogs barking in the dark hours.
[Golly, that's sublime writing....]
In comments following the previous post, Casey said some pithy, perceptive things about the film and the book. I took note.
One of the things Casey said was about this scene, the "First Tent Scene." Casey saw a lot more than I did in this scene, in all five viewings, more than what was there, I thought. But, making these screencaps today, I decided Casey was right.
Here's what Casey wrote in the comments for Pt. I:
Right before they had sex, Ennis and Jack look at each other for a long moment. They then both "wrestle" and reach out to each other passionately. They then lean in and make contact with their faces and their hands. You can see that moment in the icon that i'm using above. To me, that's one of their first moments of truly intimate contact... I can see it in their body language and their facial expressions. And right before the act itself, Ennis grabs Jack's shoulder forcefully to pull him into postion. There is raw sexual need in his expression, but I see something more. It's like a dam breaking inside him... the giving in to his feelings for Jack. And so, I see the sex they had as an extension of the connection they felt right before the act itself.
It wasn't as though I hadn't noticed that the film was very different from the book in this scene, precisely because it broke the straightforward taking of Jack by Ennis with the moment where they grappled each other. They looked each other in the eye, as if to show that they had come to some sort of agreement before proceeding.
In the short story, however, the encounter was described as instinctual. Ennis seemed merely to be consummating a suddenly awakened sexual impulse, just as he might have done on a casual hot date -- "no instuction manual needed."
The film made a departure from the story scene, but, because of Casey, I saw just how big of a departure. Only by making the screencaps, and brightening them so I could see what was happening in them, could I see it. The emotional exchange between the two men -- an intense one -- really is all there, in that moment.
In fact, in the caps I see that the "grapple" that precedes the sex in the first tent scene is the direct precursor to the "stairs kiss." As I scrolled through the caps, it was as if the stairs kiss was happening before my eyes, only not fully consummated.
So, Casey, although I still think it plausible that the book characters never did any really intimate kissing up on Brokeback, they certainly did so in the film -- from the very first encounter. Although it happens quickly, and in a very dark scene, looking at these caps showed me that that first encounter was not, "Wham, bam, thank you, ma'am", after all.
Note: I'm going to number the caps, in case anyone wants to discuss them in detail.
Let's take a look at the filmed scene....
~ Brokeback Mountain ~ "First Tent Scene", dramatically lightened (sorry for the poor image quality, it was the best I could do considering the darkness of the original frames:
Sleepy Jack takes Ennis' hand and brings it under the covers....
Ennis lurches up as if electrically shocked (per story); Jack extends his hands in a reassuring, steadying gesture....
They eye each other and Jack begins to pull off his jacket.
Ennis freezes. "What are you doing?" he asks. Jack doesn't answer, but yanks his jacket off the rest of the way and reaches for Ennis.
Ennis grabs Jack's arm as if to stop him, but the action is arrested, suspended. They grapple back and forth, as if testing. Ennis does not return Jack's gesture but neither does he fully pull away. Jack, for his part, never seems to try and overpower Ennis, but neither does he let go. He hangs on steadily, rather like his rodeo personna, the one that hangs onto wild bulls.
They stop and pant a moment. Jack pulls Ennis in as if to initiate a kiss, but it doesn't happen. Ennis' grabs Jack's collar, half holding him still and half pushing him away.
Ennis releases the grip of his fingers, allowing Jack to draw nearer.
Ennis gives a last resistant flex of his fingers....
He grips Jack's head, as if now in earnest.
Ennis withdraws again; his hands fist.
Jack doesn't let go, but draws nearer, as if asking for a kiss. Ennis' hands begin to unclench.
The kiss never is consummated. The unbuckling begins and then the sex. But what is like a kiss in which the lips never actually meet has been happening under the viewer's very eyes.
You might want to scroll back up and view them again without reading the blurbs, for a sense of continuity.
Looking at this sequence in the form of screencaps, I had to concede to Casey that a lot more was going on between these two in the filmed scene than I had thought. There was a real conflict going on, Jack holding steady and Ennis fluctuating wildly before he succumbed. When he did succumb, though, it was according to the dictates of the day. It was the kissing he couldn't do. The other he could manage.
* * *
I have to say that however good I thought this scene was in the theatre, I am even more impressed looking at it in screencaps, be they ever so murky and blurry. It kills me more than ever that neither of these men got "Best Actor."
Edited to add:
A dear fellow Frodo, Tolkien, and BBM fan, in whose honour this series has been made, just sent me a retouched screencap she found on the internet. I have no idea how this gorgeous screencap was produced. I haven't the program or the expertise to use it, I fear.
But, if any of you find any more like this, please send me a copy or a note, and I'll post them in the appropriate LJ entries. "Share the riches," and all that.
~ Beautifully retouched screencap from the "First Tent Scene":
Brokeback Mountain Links Page HERE