Author Topic: Interpreting the Brokeback poster  (Read 22674 times)

Offline Brown Eyes

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Interpreting the Brokeback poster
« on: November 14, 2007, 01:27:19 am »


Hey Buds,

I've been thinking it might be interesting for us to discuss this really well-known, signature image for Brokeback.  I think most of us have probably looked at this image so many times, we may take it for granted now.  But, I remember when BBM was still new and out in theaters... I used to just **love** seeing this poster everywhere in theater lobbies, in advertisements, etc.

I'm really hoping to start a discussion about the meaning behind this choice of image, the composition, the positioning of Ennis and Jack, the significance of the landscape, etc.  How does scale work here given the size of the two men compared to their background, etc.?  Do they feel detached from their background?  To me they feel like they're hovering in front of the landscape, but aren't really in it.  Why would the poster designer choose to compose the image this way?

I'm actually really interested in hearing how people interpret the positioning of Ennis and Jack here.

We can get into really specific details too... Such as, why is Ennis in this jacket here?  It's not one of his signature jackets.  What's the significance of the reflection of the landscape in the water?  Why is Jack depicted as so receding?

What part of BBM do you think this image corresponds with?  What does it evoke for you (as a viewer who has seen BBM many times and already loves the film).  How do you think this image works for someone who has never seen BBM or who has only seen it once?

One way of looking at this is as a pure image... what does this do for you (emotionally and in terms of how you interpret Brokeback)?

Another way to look at this, is of course, as a marketing image.  How do you feel about it?  Do you think it was successful as a marketing image?  Does it convey an image of BBM that corresponds with the way you see or understand Brokeback?  Does it project an appropriate image of what Brokeback is about?  How do you feel about the text and tag line?

I'm guessing that this image was worked-on for a long, long time and lots of very careful decisions and discussions probably happened around this main image by the filmmakers and marketers.  So, I think it's well-worth discussing this in-depth.




the world was asleep to our latent fuss - bowie

Offline serious crayons

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Re: Interpreting the Brokeback poster
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2007, 02:34:52 am »
Great idea for a topic, Bud!

Well, it's late and I just noticed this thread so I'm going to make only a couple of quick comments and then think some more and come back to it later.

One is that I like that the image crams them as close together as humanly possible -- in fact, I think their juxtaposition actually may be anatomically impossible. My guess is that they didn't want to use a picture that's out-and-out sexy, or even as romantic as the dozy embrace, because they thought it would be too risky. Which is lame and sad and stupid. But for that I blame our society more than I do the marketing folks -- I give them credit for doing their best to get people into the theater. So, given that, they did at least manage to pose Jack and Ennis in a way that pretty strongly conveys that they're "more than just friends."

Also, I like how this image became kind of iconic. Remember that New Yorker cover that showed Dick Cheney and his hunting buddy shooting victim in this pose? And I think there were others. IMO these -- at least the ones I saw -- aren't laughing at BBM, like a Jay Leno joke would. They're laughing with it, acknowledging its status as a cultural landmark. So I appreciate that.



Offline Penthesilea

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Re: Interpreting the Brokeback poster
« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2007, 07:24:36 am »
What a coincidence that you opened this topic just now  :). I chose the poster (along with the cover of Close Range) for this week's TOTW picture.

And while I was working on the picture (adjusting size, etc.) I noticed something which had escaped my attention till then (or maybe I have forgotten about it).

The background is never to be seen in the movie. Similar views, of course, but not exactly this one. And: on the postcard, there's a different background. I mean this postcard:



For a long time, I thought the postcard is the same as the poster, only the lower half cut. Wrong. For the postcard they used the right part of the scenery of the lake side argument:



But the positioning of Ennis and Jack is so iconic and dominating in both pictures, that the difference in background keeps a low profile. (Am I the only one who didn't notice the difference immediately?)

Why did they use different backgounds for the poster and postcard?

Offline Mero

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Re: Interpreting the Brokeback poster
« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2007, 08:47:04 am »
As far as I know, the poster deliberatly followed the poster to Cameron's Titanic in order to establish BBM as "another great love story", and James Shamus explicitly conceded that much:



As far as the positioning of Ennis and Jack goes, I think it may be a foreboding of Jack's fate; and Ennis is in the foreground as it is "his" story, beginning and ending with Ennis.

Offline Brown Eyes

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Re: Interpreting the Brokeback poster
« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2007, 11:10:33 am »
Thanks for jumping in here Buds!  I have a feeling that this could be a *really* interesting topic.

Yes, I also agree that Jack is positioned in a way that makes him look a little ethereal... kind of floating in the background above Ennis.  And, I do think this is some kind of allusion to Jack's death... or of Jack turning into a kind of "guardian angel"  looking down on Ennis following his death (I think the "angel" concept in appropriate given some of Proulx's language even).  Or, more simply, maybe he's positioned to indicate that he's part of Ennis's memories, etc. 

Both Ennis and Jack appear somewhat other-worldly to me.  Both almost appear to be idealized versions of themselves.  And, it probably goes without saying that Ennis seems to be shown so prominently in the foreground to indicate his protagonist-status.

I went to bed obsessing about that jean jacket that Ennis is shown wearing.  I know that he does wear jean jackets in the movie (fireworks scene, etc.), but I really don't usually think of Ennis wearing that kind of jacket... or even blue.  Of course, Ennis's color is usuall brown (or white/ light colors with patterns).  I think of blue as Jack's color.  Interesting.

The Titanic poster seems to be a very good comparison.  And, that's really interesting about Schamus.  Do you know where he discussed the poster?  I'd be curious to learn more about his thoughts.

I'm really, really glad that the marketers chose an image that depicts Ennis and Jack in an intimate composition.  It's such a relief, that with this image at least, they were not hiding this main content (the love affair between the two men) of BBM.

the world was asleep to our latent fuss - bowie

Offline Penthesilea

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Re: Interpreting the Brokeback poster
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2007, 04:14:45 pm »
I went to bed obsessing about that jean jacket that Ennis is shown wearing.  I know that he does wear jean jackets in the movie (fireworks scene, etc.), but I really don't usually think of Ennis wearing that kind of jacket... or even blue.  Of course, Ennis's color is usuall brown (or white/ light colors with patterns).  I think of blue as Jack's color.  Interesting.


I think it's for artistic/marketing reasons. The blue denim jacket just fits better in the color theme of the pic than a tan jacket. Jack also wears denim (a shirt), therefore their bodies look like one, they're a unit. They even are similar in shape and placement to the body of the ship in the Titanic poster.

And I think this denim jacket is VERY Ennis, although it's blue. We see him quite often in it:

  • tobogganing scene
  • drive-in movie
  • unloading horse/coming home to the lonseme lil ranch/soothing his daughters in the nursery
  • fireworks scene
  • after Thanksgiving/fight scene
  • the directly following camping trip (riding along a lake/crossing a stream/"Do you think people on the pavement know?")
  • meeting Cassie the first time
  • driving Junior home after a date with Cassie + Junior

We once stated that Ennis often wears his own colors when with Jack, and Jack's color when apart from him. Another reason I think this denim shirt is very typical Ennis (and not Jack) is a certain image I connect with it. A denim jacket is more tough-guy like than the urban cowboy clothes Jack wears after he's married. Truckers, bikers, cowboys wear denim jackets, but not salesmen.


Quote
Yes, I also agree that Jack is positioned in a way that makes him look a little ethereal... kind of floating in the background above Ennis.  And, I do think this is some kind of allusion to Jack's death... or of Jack turning into a kind of "guardian angel"  looking down on Ennis following his death (I think the "angel" concept in appropriate given some of Proulx's language even).  Or, more simply, maybe he's positioned to indicate that he's part of Ennis's memories, etc. 

Yep, I also think Jack looks kinda ethereal in the poster. I also think this is deliberately done this way. Look closer at the left part of Jack's face. I mean left side for us, it's Jack's right cheek and ear: they are in a light as if the sun were shining on him from behind.
(And where is Jack's right shoulder?)

Another, very personal impression: to me, Jack's facial impression, the looking down with closed eyes, looks engrossed and enchanted. He has a hint of a smile on his face.
Ennis, with basically the same position, looks vulnerable to me. He has a hint of a frown on his face.

Offline Penthesilea

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Re: Interpreting the Brokeback poster
« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2007, 04:29:54 pm »
Oh, I forgot another thing regarding Ennis and the denim jacket:

Ennis's tan jacket from their summer on Brokeback either is denim on the inside, or he wears a second, denim jacket under the tan one. I think it's the first, the tan jacket is denim blue on the inside.



The pic is from the "Shot a coyote, big son of a bitch, balls on him the size a apples" scene. Ennis warshing (but not yet everything he can reach  ;D) and Jack spills the beans. The photo captions of this scene are the only pics I've found where the inside of Ennis's tan jacket can be seen.

But in the very beginning, directly after Ennis exits the truck, he puts his jacket on. There you can also see the denim colored inside of the jacket for a split-second. Easier to detect in slow-motion.

Offline Brown Eyes

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Re: Interpreting the Brokeback poster
« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2007, 04:53:48 pm »
Hi Chrissi,

Yes, of course you're right that Ennis definitely does wear denim jackets.  Absolutely.  And, I also agree that for a single signature image for BBM (which is how this poster functions... it's the main image that everyone will have of the film... even if they never see the film and only see the posters as advertisements) it does convey a strong cowboy image for Ennis.  And perhaps tough too.  But, even though I know he does wear denim jackets, it still isn't his main image or association. And, when I really started thinking about the poster, this choice of wardrobe in the poster for Ennis really started to stand out. 

I agree that it probably has a lot to do with the color blue looking nice with the landscape and I also love that you note that it makes Jack and Ennis look like one unit.

Maybe... since as you say, Ennis seems to wear "Jack-colors" when Jack is away... this is more evidence that this is an image of Ennis without Jack or an image involving Jack's memory more than Jack's physical presence.  Maybe this is an image about Jack always being on Ennis's mind.  Or something like that. 

But, I do think that Jack is more associated with denim in general than Ennis (though not necessarily jean jackets), because of his denim shirt on Brokeback.  And then the color blue, which is so strong for Jack, seems to reinforce the idea of denim as well.

the world was asleep to our latent fuss - bowie

Offline serious crayons

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Re: Interpreting the Brokeback poster
« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2007, 05:08:00 pm »
We've noted that Ennis tends to wear blue when he's missing Jack or thinking about Jack or feeling close to Jack, and tan when he's kind of pushing Jack away. So even from a symbolic sense -- which of course the casual poster observer isn't going to get -- blue is appropriate.

Plus, I think blue more strongly denotes love than tan would. It's probably one reason that in the movie, they chose blue as Jack's signature color and tan to show Ennis' ambivalence.

Wow, it's amazing comparing the poster with Titanic's. I'd always kind of dismissed the suggestion that there were deliberate echoes but, seeing them side by side, I think the parallels are undeniable. Even the seam of the jacket sleeve matches the shape and size of the painting on the ship!

I think their expressions look a lot like those they wore in the Dozy Embrace scene. In fact, Jack's looks so much like that that I wondered for half a second if it could be a shot from that, before realizing that he's wearing different clothes. But then, different clothes could have been Photoshopped into the picture. Anyway, however they did it, that's what his expression, in particular, reminds me of.


Offline Brown Eyes

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Re: Interpreting the Brokeback poster
« Reply #9 on: November 14, 2007, 05:21:06 pm »
Hi Crayons!

Yes, this image evokes the dozy embrace for me too.  It works really well as a comparison or evocation I think, because both this image and the dozy embrace flashback have something of an other-worldly effect.  It's hard to describe this ethereal impression I get, again, both from this poster image and from the dozy embrace.  It's really an abstract emotion.  But, it's one of my favorite aspects of BBM. It seems like one of the really special qualities of BBM.

the world was asleep to our latent fuss - bowie