Vincent Gallo, Chloe Sevigny, Cheryl Tiegs
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
"The Brown Bunny" Review
What could have possibly driven Vincent Gallo? What could have possibly driven a man who created the film that Roger Ebert called "the worst film" he'd ever seen at Cannes Film Festival? What could have driven Gallo, who writes, directs, scores and stars in "The Brown Bunny" to swallow his pride and take this film back into the studio to reshape and edit and re-arrange pieces of this film AND to break his loud statement that he would "never make another film?" Was it humility? Anyone who knows or has read anything about Gallo knows that humility doesn't typically enter the picture...perhaps, then, it simply is that Gallo, through the loud booing of Cannes and the criticisms and the taunts and tortures KNEW, ABSOLUTELY KNEW that there was a film of beauty within the chaos of "The Brown Bunny." Gallo knew what nobody else could see...that crying out to be seen here was a film of substance and power and emotion that is seldom seen in cinema today.
"The Brown Bunny" is NOT a cinematic masterpiece. However, I will remain eternally grateful that Gallo re-entered the studio to redesign his vision and edit his film because the final film released to art-house theatres this month is a film of unique power and vision. It is a film about one man's journey, not just a journey across the country, but a journey through loss and grief and loneliness. Gallo's courage in making a film that goes directions that are non-commercial, unpopular and not cinematically viable is admirable and awesome. Even when this film doesn't work the idea behind it works.
As motorcycle racer Bud Clay, Gallo creates a character that speaks volumes within silence as he travels from a race in New Hampshire to a race in California over a five-day period. With extended periods of little action, Clay is left alone with his emotions and his brief, at times shallow interactions with women along the way...all the interactions winding into sad, often pathetic attempts at coping with an emptiness and loneliness inside that simply will not be soothed. It is challenging and uncomfortable to watch, and yet so hypnotic that it is impossible to not watch Gallo during encounter after encounter.
The now famous oral sex scene is, indeed, quite graphic...yet it brings to mind Bertolucci's graphic sexuality of "The Dreamers." It is a vital piece of this man's journey and unless we see it we cannot understand it. This encounter between Gallo and Chloe Sevigny is as sad as it is beautiful. This sort of balance is true throughout the film as the likes of Sevigny, Cheryl Tiegs and Elizabeth Blake enter and leave Clay's life...each interaction authentic, honest and intimate...yet ultimately ending in dissatisfaction and yet another loss.
The film is simply photographed yet often hypnotic in its formatting...the production values also simple, yet uniquely effective.
This film will not appeal to everyone for not everyone can maintain comfort through this much silence, this much emotion and this much stillness. Gallo trusts this story, trusts these characters and trusts this vision and that trust is evident throughout the film.
"The Brown Bunny" is not a cinematic masterpiece. It is much like loneliness and despair...there are moments of great self-indulgence and frustration. There are moments of awkward, extended silence and emptiness...yet, in these moments a film of rare power and beauty unfolds. "The Brown Bunny" is a rare film that deserves to be seen.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic