Ang Lee has jumped into yet another genre: the Western. But “Brokeback Mountain” is no classic cowboy tale.
His new film starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal has sweeping vistas, lonesome men, bucking broncos and smoldering campfires. It also has sex scenes between two men whose lives are changed, disturbed and entwined after being hired to tend sheep for a summer in Wyoming in the early 1960s.
“The love story has good vibes. I hope it will penetrate prejudices,” Lee told reporters Friday, a few hours before the premiere to the public of the movie at the Venice Film Festival.
He said setting the story in the 1960s in the conservative West “helped set up the obstacles, especially to gay love, affection.”
More difficult than interpreting a love story between men — cowboys at that — was getting beyond cliched perceptions about the American West, he said.
“My biggest enemy was the (Western) movie genre which was invented,” said the director, whose films include “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Hulk,” “The Ice Storm” and “Sense and Sensibility.”
The stars spoke openly of their nervousness about on-screen sex scenes.
“I just knew that the theme of sexuality would be secondary and that the primary theme would be that of love ... the real idea of love, not cliche. I knew Ang would protect us,” said Gyllenhaal.
Said Ledger: “I was really lucky that my character was uncomfortable with it and knew it too. So I could use my own level of discomfort, because it was new and strange for me, and that worked for me.”
The film by the maker of “Crouching Tiger,” the most popular foreign film in U.S. history and winner of four Academy Awards, is one of 19 contenders for the Golden Lion, the top festival prize which will be awarded Sept. 10.