DVD Review HTF REVIEW - BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN 2 DISC COLLECTOR'S EDITION - RECOMMENDED

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  1. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer
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    BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN
    2 Disc Collector’s Edition

    Studio: Universal
    Film Year: 2005
    Film Length: 135 minutes
    Genre: Drama/Western

    Aspect Ratio:

    • 1.85:1 theatrical ratio

    Colour/B&W: Colour

    Audio:
    • English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
    • English DTS 5.1 Surround
    • French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
    • Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0



    Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
    Film Rating: R







    Release Date: January 23, 2007.


    Rating: 3/5 / RECOMMENDED

    With: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway, Randy Quaid
    Adapted by: Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana From the Short Story by Annie Proulx
    Directed by: Ang Lee

    BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN is a beautiful film to watch, no matter how one reacts to the plot and characters at its core (and there have been some fairly controversial reactions since the film’s release). The photography of Rodrigo Prieto and the music of Gustavo Santaolalla make it a pleasant experience from start to finish. There are deeply felt performances throughout, something we have come to expect from Ang Lee’s films. The film traces the relationship between two cowboys from 1963 to 1983 in a simple and graceful manner. Period is suggested throughout but not hammered over the viewer’s head. This is a very subtle film, which may take some time for the viewer to absorb. If the viewer is open to the subject matter, it can be a rewarding journey.

    The current release is a 2 Disc Collector’s Edition, containing the original DVD release material and two additional featurettes. All but one of the featurettes have been moved to the 2nd Disc along with the trailers, leaving the 1st Disc to focus squarely on the film itself. With the additional memory available, Universal has added an English DTS 5.1 soundtrack, and a Spanish 2.0 soundtrack. In addition, the packaging includes 8 commemorative postcards. There are no trailers for the film included on either disc, and there is no booklet in the packaging. On the other hand, the onscreen menus are easy to navigate and the chapter stops are generously placed and easy to access via the menus.



    VIDEO QUALITY: 4/5

    The transfer here is a really nice one. The film is graced with some wonderful cinematography, and the DVD showcases the multiple vistas of the title location in grand style. There are some wide shots that seem a bit soft on focus here and there, but my understanding is that this is a feature of the original print. Colors show a terrific range from darker blues to the extremely light coloring of Anne Hathaway’s hair as the film progresses. I have read some criticism of the initial transfer of the film as not being sharp enough, but I believe this is likely due to the fact that the film was made on a very low budget. Less money means less time and less resources with which to work. Rodrigo Prieto did a great job of shooting this (and he was nominated for an Oscar for it), but this is not a situation where the filmmakers could spend untold amounts on digital mastering.

    AUDIO QUALITY: 3/5

    The original DVD release had a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in English and French. The new Collector’s Edition features a Spanish 2.0 track and a new DTS 5.1 mix. To be honest, the DTS soundscape doesn’t add much, given that this is a dialogue-heavy film, with very little atmospheric or dynamic effects. It doesn’t give the speaker system much of a workout, although the DTS surround works a bit more naturally than the DD 5.1. One scene simply featured some low volume wind on the surround channels, and others really don’t have any discernable surround effects. It’s an elegant mix which benefits the score and the occasional songs, but not one that really grabs the listener. If you must have a DTS mix of the film, here it is. At the same time, the one major new element here is the Spanish language track – if you need to hear the film dubbed in Spanish, that would be a good reason to double dip, or to purchase the 2 Disc edition over the single disc release.



    SPECIAL FEATURES: 2/5 /

    • A Groundbreaking Success (17.13): This anamorphic featurette is the only one included on the first disc. It deals on a surface level with the initial reaction to the film while it was in production and after its successful release. There is a brief discussion of the backlash against the film even before it was released, but nothing substantial. Various writers are interviewed, from blogger Matt Zoller Seitz to Alonso Duralde, with a uniformly proud reaction to the film. One writer thinks of the film as allowing a new discussion of the issue, while Duralde extols the film as another CITIZEN KANE. There is some mention of the various YouTube parodies that popped up after its release, but that’s the extent of the discussion. Interview material with Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal has clearly been pulled from the same sessions as was used for the original DVD release. The behind-the-scenes footage is similarly lifted from the earlier release as well.

    The rest of the featurettes are on the 2nd Disc of the set. The two new additions are anamorphic, while the carryovers from the original DVD are not. Subtitles are available for the featurettes in English, French and Spanish, but the only audio track available is English 2.0.

    • Impressions From the Film – (2.33) This is 2 ½ minutes of anamorphic still frames of moments from the film which fade in and out while Santaolalla’s score plays in the background. I really didn’t see much point to this, as it’s the kind of thing that could simply be a menu background.

    • Music from the Mountain (11.17): This anamorphic featurette focuses on Gustavo Santaolalla’s Oscar-winning score and the various singers who recorded tracks for the film. It’s moderately interesting, and it includes some video footage of the recording sessions, but it doesn’t delve very deeply. Santaolalla and the producers note that they correctly went with a simple acoustic score that reflects the laconic nature of the archetypical cowboy. Santaolalla notes that he wrote several key themes for Ang Lee before the movie was shot (which is similar to the working method used by James Newton Howard and M. Night Shyamalan, as well as that used by David Shire and Francis Coppola for THE CONVERSATION). The various singers, from Mary McBride to Steve Earle, make one or two comments each about the simplicity of the songs. Rufus Wainright gets a little more time, to discuss both his contributions and that of Emmylou Harris. But there really isn’t much more to this featurette than everyone saying that they enjoyed working on the film.

    • On Being a Cowboy (5.43): This is a non-anamorphic featurette focusing on the work done with the cast to train them in the considerable horseback skills they needed to work on the film. It brings up some interesting points – Heath Ledger was already a skilled horseman in the Australian manner, so he needed to adjust his riding style to fit the film. Jake Gyllenhaal notes that his lack of horseback experience enhanced his character’s air of trying too hard at it. There is some discussion from Kirk Jarrett and T.J. Bews about the “cowboy camp” the actors attended before filming began, although it is admitted that Ledger only spent one day at it, and Gyllenhall only spent three. This is a brief piece at under 6 minutes, but it covers the most interesting territory of all the featurettes, and it was already included in the original DVD release.

    • Directing from the Heart (7.27): This is a non-anamorphic featurette focusing on Ang Lee, who won the Best Director Oscar and the DGA award for this film. The actors compliment Lee for his work with them, and Lee mentions that he initially was going to be taking a rest break when this film came up and he found himself directing it. There’s not a lot of substance here. If you’re looking for a fly on the wall view of what directing this film was like, that will have to come from another source. This featurette was included on the original DVD release.

    • From Script to Screen: Interviews with Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana (10.52): This non-anamorphic featurette focuses on the Oscar-winning script adaptation by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana from the short story. The featurette, like the others, doesn’t go into much past the surface points. The writers discuss how they had to add material to go from Annie Proulx’s short story to a 2 hour movie (which is the opposite process to adapting a novel). There are some interesting notes – Ossana comments that she seems to do better writing the men’s dialogue and McMurtry is more interested in the female characters. Mostly, it’s a repetition of points we already know in seeing the film, and there is no discussion of the deeper character issues or story points.

    • Sharing the Story (20.46): This non-anamorphic featurette is a “LOGO MOVIE SPECIAL” for the LOGO channel, and it repeats a lot of the same material, albeit from a LGBT perspective. The interview footage with Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana has been pulled from the same session as the “From Script to Screen” featurette, which adds to the repetition. A major point is made here to respond to the label of the “gay cowboy movie” that got attached to the film as soon as it was released. The one interesting facet of this featurette is that it’s the only one to address the fact that the film was shot up in Canada, not in the Wyoming or Texas locations represented in the film. This featurette was included in the original DVD release.

    Taken in total, there is over an hour of featurette material here, but very little of it scratches beyond the surface. There’s a lot more that could have been discussed here. BROKEBACK was a low budget shoot, filmed under difficult conditions in Alberta. It was alternately celebrated and attacked by different parties depending on their political sensibilities. While the first disc’s featurette mentions it, there is a lot more to be said about how the movie stirred up a discussion regarding homophobia in Hollywood and in the country. But we hear very little about these matters. Instead, we are treated to repeated vista shots from the film backed by Santaolalla’s score, and the usual mutually supportive comments from all involved. I wish more time had been taken to discuss the meat of the story, but the opportunity was not taken here.


    The disc also includes 8 collectible postcards, each with a different image from the film.


    IN THE END...

    BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN is a well-made film that has already been released on DVD with much of the same material that is presented on this new edition. If the viewer has never seen or purchased it, it may be better to get this version, as there’s a little more to it – approximately 30minutes of additional featurettes, a Spanish language audio track and a DTS track. If you enjoyed the movie but don’t have the disc yet, it’s worth it to pick up this copy. If you already have it, you’re better advised to hang onto the original release.


    Kevin Koster
    February 24, 2007.
     
  2. RandallV

    RandallV Second Unit

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    "Colors show a terrific range from darker blues to the extremely light ..."

    This is precisely why I bought this newer release. The film is quite a bit brighter from start to finish. I've examined screenshots online and the first DVD was much too dark -- often obscuring important detail.
     
  3. Mark Walker

    Mark Walker Cinematographer
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    I am happy that the re-release has improved picture quality,
    because that IS what matters most, but I really dissappointed
    by the lack of additional special features.

    For a 2 disc set, they're pretty skimpy.
     

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