With “The Power of the Dog” directed by the acclaimed Jane Campion (“The Piano”), not only the talent of an older artist comes, but also another wheel to the gaze on the American West, the western in the cinema, very different from the epic and poetic of masters like John Ford and Howard Hawks. Big skies and spaces, yes, but also what happens inside the characters and inside the houses.
The proposal of the genre hypnotized and seduced millions of people. Keep doing it: the death of Halyna Hutchins, photographer of the film tragic and truncated by a bullet that came out of the revolver fired by the director and main actor of “Rust”, Alec Baldwin, was going to be a western. Horses, dust, leather, harness, theft, sweat-fringed hats. It will go down in history for other reasons.
Western films encompass modes and sensibilities. There is a sensual universe in the clothes, the dusty boots, the saloon, the bath in the wooden jar to get rid of the fatigue and consequences. The duels: “OK Corral” (Wyatt Earp and Doc Hollyday face ruthless bandits), Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster in “Veracruz”, Cooper again alone and heroic in “High Noon”, “At the appointed time”, with the patrimonial music of Dimitri Tiomkin. Much, adorable, exciting. A whole cultural and artistic process that is preserved and recreated in the area that we call the West.
In a small tent, a great love
Kicking in the door, he entered the western cosmogony “Secret on the mountain”, released in 2006 under the direction of a high-end SUV, Ang Lee. With the film, Oscar and León de Oro, plus the curious MTV award for best kiss. Those of the West then came to homosexuality and it was broken, I would not say a taboo – it was not even in the deck of its glorious platitudes for the happiness of humans – but, and how, the film broke many unwritten rules. Presented? Can be. He began in style to address a question that makes up the honeycomb where the species lives from the starting bell.
It was not a sample of gay culture in the same way in which it is expressed as the only theme in festivals for that purpose, which there are several, but an irruption with explosive art and calculated to increase the market without leaving the legitimacy of origin : Annie Proulx’s story published in The New Yorker. A writer with a good amount of work largely linked to her life in rural areas, a member of the United States Academy of Letters and Arts. Mysterious luck wished that one day I was invited to the Embassy, as they say, to have a coffee with the press, other journalists and the illustrious visitor, Annie Proulx, as part of the promotion of the newly released film. With very short hair and a suit, friendly and hospitable, she told the reason for her story that supports “Secret in the Mountain”, where two cow boys current professionals get a contract to take care of the farm with their horses in rough terrain. They camp, they make their tent, the relationship becomes sexual and explicit.
Reinforcements arrive. With the cult novel “The power of the dog”, published in 1967 – it did not sell a thousand copies, but there were five attempts to make it a film – troops arrive for the gay western, a new aesthetic and political trail of the vast genre. It comes with a guaranteed origin: director Campion, performances by Benedict Cumberbatch (he made the series “Sherlock” with the usual malicious joke: Sherlock and Dr. Watson are more than friends), Jesse Plemont and Kirsten Dunst. Two brothers own and manage a large ranch, a ranch with thousands of head of cattle. One of them is despotic, brusque, arbitrary. The other is tolerant, affable and marries a pretty town prostitute. The brothers have shared two beds in the same room since they were young.
With the presence of the woman and her affected and adolescent son, anger, jealousy and hateful harassment towards the one he understands as an intruder reach an impossible intensity. Towards her and the boy who, however, seems to admire his mortifying man.
He narrates what he intends to say between skies and dung: it is about the overdose of stage masculinity that hides a repressed homosexuality. They define it as the “toxic masculinity” that drives compressed desire. And although a good number of the participants are in a bad way on horseback – nothing is perfect – the work is told in such a way that the plains, the pure air coexist with the suffocation that develops a Greek tragedy with God in command.
Although “Secret in the Mountain” opened the game, “The power of the dog” -different and similar- is very signature, very stylish, very author. Different and similar: Savage’s novel has to do with the life of the writer who left his marriage and his children to live with a man with a return to the previous situation. Everything works with a familiar air around ideas and convictions. It is crystal clear. The similarities are there, although in my opinion “Secreto …” overflows towards melodrama, makes it predictable and corny. With Jane Campion the atmosphere is preserved, but nothing to do with epic or poetic. It focuses on the power of an artist of value in the current of feminism with its historical trajectory, but now as a revolution among the movements that inaugurate the 21st century.
It would not be unnecessary that – he has the right to do so – he goes directly to a male homosexuality camouflaged with overactive machismo. He contributes to the cinema, although what about those who are understanding, share the days with their only partners or even alone, do not shout, do not smell like hyena, do not insult, do not abuse, do not extort, do not impose?
Because now it’s toxic masculinity, very good, but it can extend to all masculinity. What then will the lost patrol of heterosexuals do without a compass or a coat, wandering?