[Marxism] Homosexuality and film (was Brokeback Mountain)

Jack Cade jack.cade at btinternet.com
Sat Jan 14 06:36:55 MST 2006

There was some discussion of 'Brokeback Mountain' a few days ago.
Nagisa Oshima's 'Gohatto' or 'Taboo' was shown on British TV last
night. It features Beat Takeshi as Captain Hijikata (as well as
his usual film associates). There are details and a review here:


The IMDB reviewer, from Ireland, comments:

"Gohatto" ("Taboo") is a fascinating film about the danger of
beauty : to sum it up, a young "ephebe"'s ethereal beauty spreads
like a plague, infecting a whole company of iron hard men in the
process. As you must know by now, Oshima tackles in this film the
forbidden subject of homosexuality among Samurais.

The movie's premise -and this is a bit of an understatement...-
unleashed controversies and protests, in some Japanese
traditional quarters : "taboo" indeed (-What about American
cowboys, too ? Officially all white heterosexuals ? Yeeeah,
right...) But I would argue that, somehow, the "homosexual act"
itself is not the film's core subject : its characters discuss it
quite openly; we are nowhere near the sniggering comedies of the
West, the politically correct heavy handed lessons of Hollywood,
or the louche coded homoerotic European art films. This ...is a
Japanese movie : about beauty vs. discipline; self-denial and
ideals; internal conflict and tragic resolution. Homosexuality
here does not equate limp wristed / camp / victimised diffidence
and other suchlike cliches -from the start, we are shown that
Kano is a ruthless killer, and a master swordsman.

What disturbs, and gradually destroys, the supremely rigid order
of the Samurai militia is Kano's personal aura, his -apparent !-
frailty, this unnerves these iron hard warriors, the story of
which is cleverly presented in a two-pronged attack by Nagisa

On one hand, the master director plays it seriously, insisting on
very static set pieces (where seated, immobile, Samurais discuss
sex and murder without flinching); on the other, Oshima
introduces elements of pure comedy...."

I've not yet seen 'Brokeback Mountain' although I have read the
book, which I found disappointing as one who has read much of
Annie Proulx's work. 'Taboo' works at many levels, including the
humourous. Lieutenant Inoue(Jiro Sakagami), who has been Kendo
jousting with Kano (Ryuhei Matsuda) the handsome homosexual, is
questioned by senior officers, that perhaps "he leans that way"
(a recurring phrase in the film). He replies, to laughter, that
he doesn't but that he "can understand why some men would."

Brilliant and thoroughly enjoyable throughout. See it.

Jack Cade

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