Saturday, December 09, 2017

Today in 2005: 'Brokeback Mountain' Released in Theaters

Brokeback Mountain is a 2005 American neo-Western romantic drama film directed by Ang Lee. Adapted from the 1997 short story of the same name by Annie Proulx, the screenplay was written by Dianna Ossana and Larry McMurtry. The film stars Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams, and depicts the complex emotional and sexual relationship between Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist in the American West from 1963 to 1983.

The film received critical acclaim and commercial success. It won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, Best Picture and Best Director at the British Academy Film Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Producers Guild of America Awards, Critics' Choice Movie Awards, and Independent Spirit Awards, among others. The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, the most nominations at the 78th Academy Awards, where it won three—Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Score—though it lost the Best Picture award to Crash in a controversial Oscars upset.

The film saw limited release in the United States today,  December 9, in 2005 (in New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco).

Over the Christmas weekend, Brokeback Mountain posted the highest per-theater gross of any film and was considered a box office success not only in urban centers such as New York City and Los Angeles, but also in suburban theaters near Portland, Houston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, and Atlanta. On January 6, 2006, the film expanded into 483 theaters, and on January 13, 2006, it opened in nearly 700 North American cinemas as part of its ongoing expansion strategy for the film. It opened in 2,089 theaters on February 3, its widest release.

The film grossed more than $83 million in North America and more than $95 million abroad, adding up to a worldwide gross of $178 million.

The film's significance has been attributed to its portrayal of a same-sex relationship on its own terms, focused on the characters. It does not refer to the history of the LGBT social movements. It emphasizes the tragic love story aspect, and many commentators have compared Ennis and Jack's drama to classic and modern romances such as Romeo and Juliet or Titanic, often using the term star-crossed lovers.

Reviewers, critics, and the cast and crew disagreed as to whether the film's two protagonists were homosexual, bisexual, heterosexual, or should be free of any sexual classification. The film was frequently referred to in the media as the "gay cowboy movie", but a number of reviewers noted that both Jack and Ennis were bisexual. Sex researcher Fritz Klein said that the film was "a nice film with two main characters who were bisexual" and suggested that the character of Jack is more "toward the gay side" of the spectrum and Ennis is "a bit more toward the straight side."

Gyllenhaal concluded that Ennis and Jack were straight men who "develop this love, this bond," saying in a Details interview: "I approached the story believing that these are actually two straight guys who fall in love." Ledger was quoted in Time magazine: "I don't think Ennis could be labeled as gay. Without Jack Twist, I don't know that he ever would have come out.... I think the whole point was that it was two souls that fell in love with each other."

When Ledger and Gyllenhaal were asked about any fear of being cast in such controversial roles, Ledger responded that he was not afraid of the role, but rather he was concerned that he would not be mature enough as an actor to do the story justice. Gyllenhaal has stated that he is extremely proud of the film and his role, regardless of what the reactions would be. He regards rumors of him being bisexual as flattering, stating: "I'm open to whatever people want to call me. I've never really been attracted to men sexually, but I don't think I would be afraid of it if it happened." 

DVD of the opera version.

In the Middle East, distribution of the film became a political issue. Homosexuality is legally a serious crime in most Islamic nations and is a taboo subject even in the few nations where it is legal. Lebanon was the only Arab country to show the film, and it released a censored format. The film was also released in Turkey. The film was officially banned from screenings in the United Arab Emirates; however, the DVD of the film was permitted to be rented from stores such as Blockbuster Video.

Brokeback Mountain is also an American opera composed by Charles Wuorinen with a libretto by Annie Proulx, based on her 1997 short story by the same name. Written in English, it premiered at the Teatro Real in Madrid on January 28, 2014. It was championed by impresario Gerard Mortier, who had commissioned it.

1 comment:

Raybeard said...

I knew, on seeing it on its release (though never since), that this was a superior film - and not because of the subject matter. I recall the many dismissive views from the public posted on various film sites that it was merely another romance, with nothing special about it apart from its being between two 'blokes' instead of male/female. That riled me rather. In what film of M/F attraction does one see the couple attempting to deny their attraction to the other, refuting their own sexuality? I've never heard of anyone saying, after passionately screwing another of the opposite sex, "I'm actually not heterosexual"! And what heterosexual act could have such profound social consequences for the two such that even their affair cannot be mentioned because the act itself is taboo, and there's not even any vocabulary for it?
No, 'Brokeback' was pretty unique in portraying what it did without any underlying faux-moralising condemnation of the two leads, indeed suggesting support for them and with sympathy for the horrific outcome. In my books it was a trailblazer of a film and even 12 years later the very idea of depicting what it did, and so elegantly and matter-of-fact without loud crusading for the 'cause', it still takes my breath away with its bravery. I can't name another film of equal depth on the subject released since.