Anne Hathaway Brokeback Mountain Phone Call
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Dec 10 2015
Team Experience: The Best of Brokeback Mountain
Thursday, December 10, 2015 at 1:00PM
Ten years ago Brokeback Mountain arrived with truly bracing power.
10 years later Brokeback Mountain has lost none of its power
It was the rarest of things: an honest to god “instant classic”. The phrase is overused but once in a while hyperbole proves true. The Oscars were stingy with it (just three prizes) but ten years on the film is as sturdy and majestically irreducible as the mountains that haunt the protagonists. When you’re watching it you’re breathing rarified air – not from the high altitudes of Wyoming but further on up, think cinematic heaven. The invaluable Ang Lee won his first Best Director Oscar for the film and it’s easy to see why given the sensitivity of the performances (early career peaks from four promising ascendant stars), the classicism of the filmmaking, and his unshakeable hand as he sutures the neo western to the romantic tragedy with the thread of American masculinity.
I asked our contributors if they had a favorite scene they’d like to share with us and here were their responses.
Not even ten minutes in and Ennis and Jack are already scaling the landscape, herding sheep over mountains of stunningly photographed silver-toned greens and across rivers of clear shimmering blues. Masses of sheep marching across the wide-open plains of the oft-eulogized days gone by are a fitting backdrop for a film that suggests love is just as natural as, well, nature. Most importantly, these early scenes allow audiences – knowing full well they are watching a gay romance – to juxtapose the sight of the traditional American male as well as Americana itself with that of, well, two men fucking. That these scenes are consumed by images of masculinity and ruggedness, cuts to the core of the film and the ideas that we ought not be as concerned with the preoccupation of what it means to be a man, but rather more concerned with being the self we are when we let our guard down and believe nobody is watching. – Glenn Dunks
It’s a short moment lasting only for one shot: the camera tilts up from a potato that Jack is studiously peeling to reveal Ennis behind him, naked and taking a sponge bath. Gyllenhaal, in focus, holds his head immobile, the angle suggesting that Ledger is just barely in his peripheral vision. To us, Ledger is a blurry pink blob. Coming shortly before the two men finally consummate their attraction, this single shot is a tiny little fable of erotic longing. The image expresses an anxiety to look and appreciate the naked male form, to lust after it, to respond to it at all, but neither Jack nor ourselves are able to do so. For a film that will spend the rest of its time smartly dissecting the pain of hidden desire, this is a key image, symbolizing the object of desire as both immediately present and inaccessible simultaneously. – Timothy Brayton
There are moments in your life that live on far after they’ve gone. There are certain people that come into it at just the right time. Sometimes nostalgia can color your memory of it all, until it remains an idealized remembrance of things past. If Brokeback Mountain had focused only on the summer that Ennis and Jack spent together instead of spanning the decades-long affair, would it have had the same impact? After 5 years have passed since that summer – wives, children, lives, and change drifting through the space that brought the two men together, there is a fear that hangs in the air of their first reunion. What if it had just been a brief, yet beautiful flash. The joy of seeing each other again gives way to something more primal and intense. Their bodies (and souls) collide as if the attraction and magnetic pull of each other is impossible to keep them separated again. Blissfully fumbling over each other, the two men are lost to the world. But standing at the porch door, watching but not fully understanding is Ennis’ wife Alma. A fumbling mix of emotions tumbling over her lost face. Their rapturous reunion becomes her silent cross to bear. – Abstew
The image that has crystallised in my head from Brokeback Mountain is that of Ennis del Mar standing in front of the sky full of fireworks – I think it was released as a press shot. Watching the film back for the first time in a fair few years, it is not necessarily my favourite scene but it does perfectly encapsulate the film’s tender, fractured relationship to the ‘American dream’. The image of the cowboy is America’s most quintessentially masculine stereotype, and here stands one, before 4th of July fireworks celebrating the land of the free, his anger just exercised over some bawdy, crude men. But Ennis also symbolises the individual man’s impossible struggle to be everything his country expects him to be, and this moment shows how Ennis can never simply be the happy family man he wishes so desperately to be. It is celebration and sorrow in one beautifully framed image. – David Upton
She may have been the only one of the Brokeback quartet to not earn an Oscar nomination but Anne Hathaway is at the center of my favorite scene of the film and one where we get the line that best sums up the film’s title:
Knowing Jack, it was probably some pretend place where bluebirds sing and there’s a whiskey spring. ”
Shot in a tight close up and framed by her tasteless big peroxide hair and her garish rings, Hathaway’s performance is all in her eyes. As she talks to Ennis and gives him the official story of how Jack died (which Lee juxtaposes with violent images of how he was actually killed), Hathaway’s welled-up eyes show a woman facing the man her husband loved. While Ennis betrays little emotion, we see her almost breaking. Even at this moment of truth, this no-nonsense woman doesn’t let her guard down. It’s an exquisitely quiet moment that epitomizes the film’s sympathetic portrait of its central couple and those around them. –Manuel Betancourt
Ennis and Jack were cursed with inarticulate feelings but we shouldn’t be so shy or withholding with our love for this American classic. We’re eager to hear your favorite moment from the film in the comments.
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