Reduced to caricature prior to its release, and now a new form of derisive shorthand for bigots everywhere, Brokeback Mountain
remains a powerful and acutely affecting film, and not nearly for the
reasons many out to wage their own political crusade ascribe to it.
Yes, it is a love story centering around two homosexual cowboys. But
its observational prowess is nearly unrivaled in all of American film
of the past several years not directed by Alexander Payne. Brokeback Mountain
is also a keen rendering of the corrosive nature of self-denial. Dreams
of all types are buried and traded in every day across the world, but Brokeback Mountain
shows — in moving, modest and melancholic fashion — just what it means
to deny something that is a part of you to your very core.
in Wyoming, the story throws together two itinerant ranch hands, Ennis
Del Mar (H eath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal), who find work
under Joe Aguirre (Randy Quaid) herding sheep in the summer of 1963.
Both rugged individualists, the pair forge an unexpected bond and
tumble into a lusty physical clinch, but part ways at the end of the
job. Engaged to Alma (Michelle Williams), Ennis gets married; Jack also
weds, tying the knot and having kids with outgoing, well-to-do rodeo
queen Lureen (Anne Hathaway). A couple years later they reconnect,
though, and enter into a protracted, if limited, affair consisting of
stolen fishing trips and camping vacations.
Director Ang Lee, working from an adaptation of Annie Proulx’s short
story of the same name and using Gustavo Santaolalla’s haunting score
as an aural highlighter, locates the unseen social forces and the
limits of personal nerve that inform his characters’ behavior. The
fierce insight and clench-jawed genius of Ledger’s performance in
particular lies in the manner in which he never allows himself to even
entertain the possibility of honest happiness.
Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen that preserves the aspect ratio of the film’s original theatrical exhibition, Brokeback Mountain
comes housed in an Amray case, and features English and French language
Dolby digital 5.1 audio tracks alongside optional English, French and
Spanish subtitles. Four single-digit-minute featurettes comprise the
disc’s bonus materials, looking in cursory fashion at the film’s
character development, the modus operandi of director Lee, the
particulars of Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana’s adaptation and the
production itself. Of this quartet, the “script to screen” featurette
is probably the most interesting, but everything about this release
clearly augurs a more comprehensive, double-disc special edition DVD
somewhere down the line. To that end, hedge your collecting plans
accordingly. A (Movie) C- (Disc)