Dir:Ang Lee. US. 2005. 133mins.

Nonewly-arrived Martian would ever guess that the same person had directed Sense& Sensibility, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Hulk.The most impressive thing about Ang Lee's creative take on the multiplepersonality syndrome is the way that each successive experiment feels like thework of a pro that has been mining that genre for years.

TakeBrokeback Mountain: the director's most complete and accomplished filmto date comes across as the late masterpiece of an auteur dedicated tochronicling the demise of the American Dream.

Amoving, measured, humane love story - and only incidentally a gay one - BrokebackMountain derives its considerable emotional charge from its eye fordetails, from its laconic dialogue, from its careful dosing of small butdevastating revelations, and from the bravura performances elicited by Lee fromhis cast - including a revelatory Heath Ledger.

Brokeback Mountain, which plays Toronto after it screening incompetition at Venice, demands a certain patience and attention from itsaudience. But star appeal and Oscar murmurings should propel the film to thetop of the indie box-office tables both at home and abroad, while upbeatcritical word should draw the attention of more mainstream audiences. The filmopens in the US on Dec 9 and in the UK on Dec 26.

Thefilm is a surefire bet for a roster of Oscar nominations, which in addition tonods in one or both of the Best Film and Best Director slots are likely toinclude Best Actor for Ledger, Adapted Screenplay for Ossana and McMurtry'ssensitive adaptation of Anne Proulx's short story, Art Direction for JudyBecker's painstakingly researched evocation of the sad provincial underbelly ofAmerica in the 1960s and 1970s, and Cinematography for Rodrigo Prieto'sstill-photo take on the American West, which turns even the shabby interiorsinto impersonal landscapes, indifferent to their human inhabitants.

ComposerGustavo Santolalla, another close associate of Mexican director AlejandroGonzalez Inarritu, provides a spare score that caresses the action,sentimentally but mostly effectively, with Cooder-like guitar breaks.

Giventhe assured result, it's difficult to understand why the project spent overseven years in development hell before Focus Features took it on: could itreally be because a drama about two cowboys in love is still considered adelicate subject for a major studio'

Paradoxically,it is the lack of overt man-on-man action that makes Brokeback Mountainso magnificently subversive: not since Wong Kar-wai's Happy Togetherhas the fact that this love story happens to be between two men been sotangential to a film's emotional interests or impact.

JackTwist (Gyllenhaal) and Ennis Del Mar (Ledger) meet one summer on BrokebackMountain in Wyoming, hired by local ranch boss Joe Aguirre (Randy Quaid) toprotect his sheep from wolf and coyote attacks in their remote upland pasture.

Jackis the fiery one, the impulsive Texan Rodeo rider who is as surprised by hisemotions as Ennis but far more open to their consequences. It's Ennis, though,who is the really memorable character: tough but shy, taciturn, unable to openup or really express his emotions.

Butit's the details that make the writing so spot-on: the way a playful tusslebetween the two men, after their sexual bonding, turns to a fist-fight as Ennisattempts to slug it out with a part of himself that he is afraid of; thewound-up excitement in the body and face of Ennis on the day he waits - at home,in the company of a wife (Williams) he loves - for Jack's first visit after afour-year absence.

Rhythmically,the film takes its cue from the slow rhythms of life around these parts: thepassing of the seasons, harvest and planting, the time to take the herds up themountain and the time to bring them down. One is reminded, at times, of TerenceMalick's Days Of Heaven - another nature-soaked film which takes itstime, and forces the audience to do the same.

Andyet it rarely drags, or seems too long, as there is drama embedded in theapparently inconsequential dialogue, and the way that so much is unsaid, andtouches of wry social humour: the increasingly fluffy, dyed hairstyles ofJack's wife Lureen (Hathaway), the dogged way an ineffectual electric carvingknife, as advertised on TV, whirrs away as a token of bourgeois normalcy wheneverything is so far from normal, or comfortable, or even bearable.

Focus Features
River Road Entertainment

Focus Features

Focus Features

William Pohlad
Larry McMurtry
Michael Costigan
Michael Hausman

Diana Ossana
James Schamus

Larry McMurtry
Diana Ossana
from the short story by AnnieProulx

Rodrigo Prieto

Judy Becker

Geraldine Peroni
Dylan Tichenor

Gustavo Santolalla

Heath Ledger
Jake Gyllenhaal
Linda Cardellini
Anna Faris
Anne Hathaway
Michelle Williams
Randy Quaid
Anne Hathaway