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Brokeback Mountain:
Collector's Edition

When the first p.r. stuff came out about a Collectors' Edition of Brokeback Mountain on DVD, I admit I laughed. How much more in-depth do we need to go? It's not like Lord of the Rings -- and I know there are Brokeback Mountain fans wondering why we need more documentaries about Hobbits.

When I opened it up and saw the postcards (which are nice - I just don't know who I'd send them to), I'll go so far as to say I snickered. But I've been thinking, usually a dangerous thing for me, and I've come around a bit on this one.

First of all, Brokeback Mountain was, without a doubt, an historic film. Not necessarily for its subject matter, or at least superficially, because films about gay relationships have been around for decades. This one merits special treatment because it rightfully got recognized as a good film, not a "gay" film. Yet in a year where gay slurs may have led to the firing of an actor from one of TV's top shows, it's clear that some of the issues raised by this film still need to be examined.

Ang Lee's work here is no more or less sensitive than it has been on any of his other films, including Hulk. If that movie had not been burdened with the expectation of a lot of Hulk smashing and cost about $50 million less, we might have liked it better. Brokeback Mountain is a film from a director at the top of his game, working from a strong script with at least two of the best young actors in film today.

On those merits alone, we should have expected a comprehensive special edition, which Universal has delivered. Both Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal talk about their preparation for their roles, which at least in Gyllenhaal's case made a huge impact in his career. Though screenwriters Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana probably deserve more attention (McMurtry is, after all, worth a full length documentary to himself), they get a good chance to talk about their process on this film.

As has become de rigeur on "year later" DVDs like this, Universal includes a featurette on the impact of the film. Not quite a "where are they now?", it does give a good snapshot of a movie overcoming prerelease controversy to become a cultural touchstone. (And no, that's not hyperbole - whether or not people have seen it, they know certain moments and references from it.)

If extras aren't your thing, the release of this edition still accomplishes two things. Its existence pushes this film back onto your radar, and might spur you to pick it up. On the other hand, it also means that the original DVD release is going for a lot cheaper as stores try to jettison that stock.

Either way, it's a film worth taking a look at, whether it's your first time or not.

Brokeback Mountain (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)

Derek McCaw


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