Wow. Itï¿½s already been over a year since hearing the endless ï¿½I canï¿½t quit youï¿½ pander that many labeled Brokeback Mountain with. Sitting down to see this one for the 3rd time, I feared that the initial power the film had over me would be diminished. Such isnï¿½t the case here as Brokeback Mountain is still the same excellent film it was over a year ago.
Brokeback Mountain tells the story of star-crossed lovers Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Kake Gyllenhaal). Both are young men, not even twenty, working in the year of 1963. They meet and fall in love on a sheep-herding job in Signal, Wyoming. The film chronicles the next 20 years of their lives from Ennis marrying Alma Beers (Michelle Williams) to Jack marrying Laureen Newsome (Anne Hathaway). The 20 years that the film takes place over show Ennis and Jack trying to lead a normal life without seeing each other, but shortly before realizing that they both have a deep connection to one another.
Thereï¿½s a scene in Brokeback Mountain where Ennis tells Jack about something he saw as a boy. Ennis tells Jack that there were two old guys who were shacked up together. The whole town knew of this. Then one day, they were found beaten to death. Ennisï¿½s father made sure Ennis and his brother saw this possibly as an idea that this is what may occur if you chose this type of life. This scene is quite important because it really shapes and defines the kind of character that Ennis is. Ennis is the kind of character that wants to let his emotions for Jack out but we learn that he was taught to hate his own feelings. Years after first meeting Jack, Ennis tells Jack ï¿½Why donï¿½t you let me be? Itï¿½s because of you, Jack, that Iï¿½m like thisï¿½nothing, and nobody.ï¿½ Ennis blames Jack for his problems, but the center of his problem is that Ennis loves Jack but canï¿½t find a way to deal with that fact.
Iï¿½ve read numerous reports declaring that Brokeback Mountain is simply a gay cowboy film. Not only does this statement make no sense, but that statement actually does injustice to the marvel that the film truly is. The film presents a story that is about two men, a story that has been labeled by religious and ethnic groups as horrible and forbidden. The story could have easily been about two women, ala Boys Donï¿½t Cry and we would have not thought that much of it. Weï¿½re given two characters from opposite worlds that meet, fall in love and declare to each other ï¿½You know I ainï¿½t queer right? Yeah, me neither.ï¿½
The film is based on a short story by E. Annie Proulx. Proulx. After the film was released, declared that she was amazed at the work that Ang Lee had done with the film. Ang Lee could have simply presented a story about two gay cowboys who fall in love. Instead he focuses so much on the characters of Ennis and Jack that the viewer becomes engrossed by the events on the screen before them. I would say that, while both seem to love each other, Jack is more of the ï¿½gayï¿½ character. In one of the closing scenes, where Ennis visits his bedroom, we find out quite a lot about the type of childhood that Jack lead. A type of childhood where he, kind of like Ennis, kept a majority of his thoughts and feelings inside of himself rather than telling others. Maybe now we can see why Lee chose these ï¿½star-crossedï¿½ characters who, at first glance, seem very different but really arenï¿½t once we learn more about them.
Looking into Ang Leeï¿½s film history, we see that Lee has quite the diverse resume. He has directed films about gays (1992ï¿½s The Wedding Banquet), films about his culture (2000ï¿½s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), films about misunderstood members of society (2003ï¿½s Hulk), and now 2005ï¿½s Brokeback Mountain that has a tagline of ï¿½Love is a Force of Natureï¿½. All of the films truly exemplify the type of director Lee in that all the aforementioned films focus on the characters Lee creates. All of the characters have so many more layers than a first glance definition.
With the film Brokeback Mountain, I believe that Ang Lee has created the perfect film. The film has characters and themes that contain such rich emotion and such utter brilliant style. Going into Brokeback Mountain, I expected quite a lot considering Leeï¿½s resume. The end result was a film that everyone should see as Brokeback Mountain is so sharp in raw emotion that it should easily earn in itï¿½s place in anyoneï¿½s book as a true modern love story.
Presented in a 1080p, VC-1 Encoded, 1:85:1 Widescreen Aspect Ratio, Brokeback Mountain looks excellent throughout capturing all over the earthly, mountain themes conveyed in the film.
The obvious biggest benefit here is that the filmï¿½s print, which is about one year old, is extremely new. This results in great colors (particularly the subtle blues and whites of the sky) and a little bit of grain. Now Iï¿½m sure someone reading this will think ï¿½oh no grain! Not in the HD era!ï¿½. Well for a film like Brokeback Mountain grain is exceptable as Ang Lee shot using film not HD camera like most directors are using nowadays.
Detail was excellent as well with many noticeable improvements over the SD-DVD release. Since I own both I threw in the SD-DVD release and compared a few scenes. Any real closeup or Ennis and Jack resulted in a more 3-D image weï¿½ve come to expect from HD and a far greater use of texture (particularly in some of the outfits). In complete honesty the only negative I noticed here (similar in the SD-DVD release) was a bit of EE in a few exterior shots. Otherwise from that this is a stellar transfer.
Universal continues their winning ways by providing Brokeback Mountain, certainly a quiet film in its own rights, with the standard Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 (encoded at 1.5mbps).
Dialogue was clear and intelligible coming out of the center channel. Surround usage was kept to a minimum (makes sense given the subject) only really becoming noticeable during some of the filmï¿½s score. In fact probably want makes this one so enjoyable is Gustavo Santaolaliaï¿½s moving score. Dynamic Range was present here and there with little discrete sounds like the wind blowing (check the filmï¿½s climax sequence).
One canï¿½t expect a film like this to compete with the louder action films. That is what makes this audio presentation work on the level it does. No itï¿½s not the first title Iï¿½ll think of for demo purposes, but Universal knew this and instead worked on the subtle little things. All of this adds up to a solid audio presentation.
All we get added to this HD DVD release is 2 more features. No commentary or deleted scenes. A big boo!!!
- A Groundbreaking Success: This 14 minute feature takes a look at how many critics have labeled the film a ï¿½classicï¿½. The biggest issue I had with this feature was that even though it was interesting, it was far too short never really diving deep into any subject matter for more than a few minutes.
- Music from the Mountain: Composer Gustavo Santaolalia (who deservedly won the Best Score Oscar in ï¿½06) is the subject of this short 11 minute feature. Mr. Santaolalia sits down and speaks about making the filmï¿½s score.
- Impressions from the Film: This one was way too short at only 3 minutes. We do get a few glimpses of varying movie stills with the great score playing in the background.
- On Being a Cowboy: This feature goes through the steps the actors took to become real life cowboys from visiting other cowboys to basically practicing and learning on their own.
- Directing From The Heart: Ang Lee: This is easily the best available feature on this disc. The feature goes into some detail about Ang Leeï¿½s desire and quest he hoped to achieve by making a movie of this nature.
- From Script to Screen: Interviews with Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana: This feature has Larry McMurtry (executive producer) & Diana Ossana (producer) speak about the process of bringing the film from a basic script adapted by a novel to the actual big screen. McMurtry & Ossana really inform us that they had quite the passion while making the film as they come off as very informed and knowledgeable.
- Sharing the Story: The Making of Brokeback Mountain: This feature chronicles the making of the film from the early concepts, casting, settings, pre-production, post-production, and marketing. Since I found the film to be simply magnificent, this feature really accentuates the themes of the film in style.
If you can get over the bashing people have given this film over one damn line, what youï¿½ll find at the core is a moving story not about two men in love but rather about the physical love two can have. Universal has given us a fine transfer with an equally good audio presentation, but the real disappointment here is that for a ï¿½special editionï¿½ we get no deleted scenes or no commentary track. Due to this Iï¿½m inclined to say that if you own this one already, rent it. If you havenï¿½t seen this film or donï¿½t own it, pick this one up as the silent power the film holds will really move you regardless of beliefs.
Special Features List
- A Groundbreaking Success
- Music from the Mountain
- Impressions from the Film
- On Being a Cowboy
- Directing From the Heart: Ang Lee
- From Script to Screen: Interviews with Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana
- Sharing the Story: The Making of Brokeback Mountain