Brokeback Meadow, the movie adaptation of the acclaimed Annie Moolyx short story, is a movie that looks set to sweep the board at these year's oscars. And of course this is understandable for it is indeed a marvellous film.
Directed by Ang Dairy Lee, it tells the story of a passionate albeit muted love affair between two Hereford cows on the rustic splendour of the sprawling Wyoming countryside. Beginning in 1963 the film portrays the intrinsic feelings of shame gay cows would undoubtedly have suffered at the time. Sixties America may a seen an explosion of free-thinking fervour but the question Brokeback asks is did the midwest really show up to the party?
Anchored by forceful performances from Teat Ledgherd as the brooding, taciturn Daisy and Jake Milkinghall as the more sensitive, romantic Petal. Brokeback Meadow is a delicate cowracter study of two cattle not only battling their true feelings but also the behavioural constraints of their generation and environment in which they lived.
In a style that is spare yet rich, Brokeback conveys the heartfelt tenderness the two cows have for each other and the unbearable pain they suffer when ultimately not being able to be together.
The controversial love scenes in which the two cows are shown on screen tenderly sucking on each other's udders (other's udders - heh heh that sounds funny - "super-alliteration") are played out with admirably elegant restraint by the two leads. While not too graphic, Ledgherd and Milkinghall still succeed in conveying the basic animal passion that existed between the cows, a passion, that for so long they had to store up while anxiously chawing on the cud in sexual frustration.
"subtle glances are exchanged in the milking parlour",
Daisy's post coital reaction is a blend of both shame and denial. "Moo moo moo moo moo no queer", she insists upon waking the following morning next to Petal, her large head being softly massaged by her lover's warm, insistent cow breath (My god this is getting weird).
This is a love affair that evolves organically however - subtle glances are exchanged in the milking parlour, they "accidentally" brush up against each other in the crush (hard not to really). One scene shows them eating from the same trough and eventually coming to chew on the same blade of silage, their enormous, moist lips almost blushfully (is that a word?) coming into contact (not unlike the spaghetti scene from Lady And The Tramp except here it's homosexual cows, not heterosexual dogs).
"his camerastrokes uncannily recreate the understated, unspoken inertia of Moolyx's prose".
Their love is, tragically, never fulfilled. Both Daisy and Petal go on to have unloving marriages to brutish Bulls, and see out their lives wondering what might have been if society was more tolerant of same-sex relationships in cattle.
The movie will add to Ang Dairy Lee's growing reputation as a director of both poise and sensitivity. Here he subtly shows the anxiety both cows feel in confronting their true feelings. In fact you could say his camerastrokes uncannily recreate the understated, unspoken inertia of Moolyx's prose.
Young Ledgherd is strong throughout - his Daisy is a a paradigm of love fighting pent-up stoicism. Let it be known that his nomination for best cow in a lead role at this year's oscars is not in any way undeserved.
Dairy Lee too is nominated, up for best director. After the lush, mannered verbosity of Fence and Fencability and the dazzling pyrotechnics of Crouching Cow, Hidden Calf, again he shows that he is capable of the most extraordinary stylistic versatility behind the lens.
Credit to should go also to Milkinghall who, although not nominated, is outstanding throughout. One could say Petal is the less interesting of the protagonists but his performance is no less intense neverheless. Milkinghall will get academy kudos in due time one feels.
Put simply: Brokeback Meadow is a great film from a director at the peak of his bovine powers.