Brokeback Mountain: Story to Screenplay Paperback – 31 Dec 2005
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About the Author
Annie Proulx is the author of eight books, including the novel "The Shipping News" and the story collection "Close Range". Her many honors include a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award, the Irish Times International Fiction Prize, and a PEN/Faulkner award. Her story Brokeback Mountain, which originally appeared in "The New Yorker", was made into an Academy Award-winning film. Her most recent novel is "Barkskins".She lives in Seattle.
Larry McMurtry is the author of twenty-nine novels, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Lonesome Dove", three memoirs, two collections of essays, and more than thirty screenplays. He lives in Archer City, Texas.
Diana Ossana has written two novels, more than a dozen screenplays and numerous essays.
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Top Customer Reviews
I own two copies of the book - one which I dip into on a regular basis which is now battered and worn, being well read, but my other stays safely stored away, just perfect like both the story and screenplay, but this is definitely a book for reading.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Each writer contributes an essay about their experience bringing this story to the big screen. Proulx's "Getting Movied" was especially thoughtful and generous. The volume would have been nicely served, however, had Ang Lee contributed an Introduction. If you're a movie credits geek, this book concludes with the entire closing credits, including the sheep wrangler and bear trainer. Also includes 8 pages of black and white photos from the film.
A nice souvenir for anyone who loves the movie and wants to study it more closely.
Through a series of narrative ellipses, Proulx presents a palpable love story about two ranch hands, Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist, who meet and become obsessed with one another. First published in the New Yorker in 1997 and greeted with much acclaim, the story is less about coming to terms about the characters' sexual proclivities and more about their inability to act upon those heretofore untapped emotions toward a greater happiness. Even though both men marry and have children, neither can fully acknowledge the love they feel toward each other because of the steep price that their love carries and they can only express themselves privately for more than twenty years. Suffice it to say the story is stunning in its preciseness and evocation of the contemporary West, but on first read, it hardly beckons a screen treatment.
Yet, if anyone can do it, the reclusive McMurtry has the credentials given his masterworks as both novelist and screenwriter - "Lonesome Dove", "The Last Picture Show" and "Terms of Endearment". With his longtime writing partner Ossana, the obvious challenge was expanding Proulx's story without getting verbose and compromising the emotional tone or integrity of the core story. The final script is 110 pages long, and it is a testament to McMurtry's and Ossana's talent that only one-third is taken up by the original story. Their approach was to take Proulx's words verbatim and augment many of the narrative ellipses, the most obvious opportunity in adding dimension to the women in the two men's lives. It is fascinating to read how the wives, Alma and especially Lureen, transform from background figures into vivid characters with their own unspoken feelings in the screenplay. The other significant aspect that resonates is how the script captures what Proulx painted in words about the landscape and the silent moments among the characters. Reading the wondrous screenplay makes me appreciate the effort it takes to visualize a story that was meant to be left to the imagination.
There are also three essays included in the book - individual accounts by Proulx, McMurtry and Ossana. What comes across clearly is how they all have strong synchronicity about the final screenplay. Proulx's essay, "Getting Movied", is the most interesting in that she tells us the genesis of the story through years of subliminal observation in her adopted home of Wyoming. It apparently started when she saw an old ranch hand in a bar packed with good-looking women, yet he was only watching the guys in a furtive fashion. This image so affected Proulx that she counted back from his age and decided to set the story in the 1960's when he would have been a young man. She ruminated on the themes of rural homophobia and the internalized challenges of gay men in these areas. It's obvious that Proulx tapped into something deeper and that McMurtry and Ossana have been able to make even more tangible.
If you are interested in seeing how the movie was changed from the original story, you can follow both texts, should that meet your fancy. I for one am not inclined to read screenplays. I'd much rather take my chances on remembering differences from actually seeing the movie. The screenplay fleshes out the Proulx story and adds more scenes with both Ennis and Jack's families. There is one brilliant change near the end of the film that has to do with Ennis' shirt he had lost. In Proulx's story, when Ennis visits Jack's parents, he finds his dirty, tattered shirt hanging inside one of Jack's shirts in a closet. In the movie version, Ennis takes the shirts and then reverses them, putting Jack's shirt inside his own. (That's when even the bravest members of the movie audience cry.)
By far the most interesting thing about this book is the essay by Ms. Proulx. She comes across as the person we suspected she is from having written such a powerful story. She makes it clear that this story, while a love story, is also about homophobia, Jack's and Ennis' and everybody else's. Rather than being about "two gay cowboys," as urban critics have said, Ms. Proulx states that she is writing about "destructive rural homophobia. Although there are many places in Wyoming where gay men did and do live together in harmony with the community, it should not be forgotten that a year after this story was published Matthew Shephard was tied to a buck fence outside the most enlightened town in the state, Laramie, home of the University of Wyoming." Even as late as 1997 when Proulx got the idea for her story after observing an older, weathered man in a bar who was not watching the women in the bar but rather the young men playing pool, she noted that in a rural cafe the owner was "incensed that two 'homos' had come in the night before and ordered dinner.'"
Although Ms. Proulx expected protest letters from religious types when her story was originally published in THE NEW YORKER on October 13, 1997, what she got were letters from men, some from Wyoming, who said that she had told their story or their son's story. She says she is still getting these kinds of letters eight year later. Although she states that she had some disagreements with the writers of the screenplay, she essentially is pleased with the film-- and we have no reason to believe she is being anything less than honest in her praise of McMurtry's, Ossana's and Lee's adaptation.
Both McMurtry and Ossana in their essays compare this film to Richard Avedon's photographic collection IN THE AMERICAN WEST, which is certainly not a sentimental representation of the West.
Those of us who welcome this kind of honesty in films are keeping our fingers crossed that Televangelist Pat Robertson is too busy with events in Israel to put a curse on any or all of the individuals involved in this fine endeavor.
On initial viewing, one of the things that makes the film so compelling is the fact that it does not spell out all the answers - it is no coincidence that BBM discussion boards are buzzing with (at times highly outlandish) interpretations. This book is fascinating because it makes you aware that in fact nearly all the answers ARE there, but hidden under the surface. I found its reading enriched my experience of the film considerably (and turned renewed viewing in to some kind of exquisite self-inflicted torture...). By the way, the screenplay is of course also a great help to those who - due to either Ennis's mumbling, the heavy accents, or both - have trouble understanding everything that is being said.
The book is rounded off with three brief essays, from Proulx, McMurtry and Ossana. McMurtry's is cursory, rather pointless, and vaguely unpleasant. The other two however are engrossing and contain enlightening angles on the film and the story. Proulx forcefully slams the notion of the "gay cowboy movie" and points out that the theme of BBM is the destructive force of rural homophobia. As she makes clear, a sexual relationship like that of Jack and Ennis is no far-fetched fantasy but a reality of life in the Mid West (as everywhere). Interestingly, sex between men is not what bothers society; it's love between men that society can't abide. A thought like that allows a whole new take on the scene in which Joe Aguirre confronts Jack with his knowledge of Jack and Ennis's sexual exploits. Aguirre is hardly a paragon of moral indignation - he's seen it all before and even has a cute colloquial phrase for it; he's merely exasperated that his employees weren't doing the work they were paid to do. Ossana poignantly links the story of Jack and Ennis to the killing of Matthew Shephard in Laramie, Wyoming, in 1998: the destructive processes shown in BBM are very much with us still.
Obviously, the eight pages of black-and-white stills are a far cry from the film's visual splendours. Worse, in its avoidance of any scene depicting intimacy between the men (and its eagerness to include a lot of boy-girl images), the selection is simply hypocritical. On the other hand, even in this modest incarnation, the image of the two shirts on their worn hanger next to a postcard of Brokeback Mountain leaves no doubt that it is already a classic cinematic icon, and one of the most inspired endings to any movie ever. For those who have trouble recovering from their devastation after seeing the film, the end of the full credits list that completes the book also contains some helpful information: "The characters and events depicted in this photoplay are fictitious".