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    The Brown Bunny

    Gallo's humor

    Vincent Gallo's "The Brown Bunny" arrives from Cannes with a reputation as a pathetic joke, but it's actually just a minimalist mistake that could have been something better.


    A couple of times when I've given a bad review to a small independent film, the director has sent me a nice diplomatic e-mail saying something like, "I wish you had understood what we were trying to do." Which seems like a fair enough way to leave things — the director follows his own vision, puts his work out for people to see, and the critic, like any other viewer, either responds to that vision or doesn't. We don't have to call the movie "bad" — maybe it just suffers from a lack of understanding.

    Written and directed by: Vincent Gallo.
    Cast: Vincent Gallo, Chloe Sevigny, Cheryl Tiegs, Elizabeth Blake, Anna Vareschi, Mary Morasky.
    Cinematography: Vincent Gallo.
    Edited by: Vincent Gallo.

    Related links: Official site
    Undoubtedly, there's something Vincent Gallo was "trying to do" with "The Brown Bunny," and let's just say I "didn't understand" it. Gallo himself has been much less diplomatic about his own film, reportedly calling it "a disaster of a film and ... a waste of time" after it played to derisive audiences at Cannes.

    "It was never my intention to make a pretentious film, a self-indulgent film, a useless film, an unengaging film," he added, just to emphasize the point for those who didn't understand what he was trying to do.

    The thing is, once a film gets this kind of apocalyptically awful publicity, how do you not release it and give the public a crack at it? Did Sony give Ben and Jennifer the bad news and drop all prints of "Gigli" into an unmapped salt mine somewhere? No, they put it in theaters and let people gawk. If Jerry Lewis finally decided to let the world see the legendary disaster "The Day the Clown Cried," wouldn't every film geek on earth run to see it? Sure, and they'd stomp over each other's coke-bottle glasses to be first in the door.

    The Brown Bunny  
    So we have "The Brown Bunny." What can you say about "The Brown Bunny"?

    Well, it is awful, there's no denying that. But I didn't despise it in the way that some of the world's most truly hateful films deserve to be despised. The film doesn't spread racism or justify fascism or encourage violence or even fuel the outsized ego of the guy who made it. Gallo is guilty of only one cardinal sin: boring the audience.

    It's a 90-minute film with not more than 20 minutes of anything noteworthy happening. We spend most of the movie watching Gallo, whose character is an itinerant motorbike racer, drive his van out to California for a race. Rain falls. Highway signs pass. Miles accumulate. Gallo's face stares expressionless out the window. Sometimes he seems near tears.

    The few human interactions that our man has along his cross-country trip are deliberately unnatural. At one highway rest area in the Midwest, he parks, buys a soda, and sits down at a table next to a woman who looks like a gently aged version of '70s swimsuit knockout Cheryl Tiegs. (What do you know, it is a gently aged Cheryl Tiegs.) With hardly a word between them, they kiss for a while, and then he picks up and hits the road again. End of interaction. And that's neither the first nor the last of these unreal, incomplete encounters he'll have on his journey.

    What Gallo is trying to do is show his character's detachment from life and other people, before delivering him to his ultimate destination — California, where he hopes to take care of some unsettled business with his onetime girlfriend Daisy (Chloe Sevigny). The conclusion, as these two characters confront their past, seems at first like another awkward, stupid indulgence. But maybe it isn't. Maybe it only feels that way because of the aimlessness of everything before it. My feeling is that there was something here at the end, something Gallo was "trying to do," that might have made a fine movie if he hadn't substituted hollow artiness for real plot and character development. A few tears and a stony gaze out the window don't do it. Those empty 70 minutes needed to be filled with something smart, something that would make the ending cut deeper.

    AUGUST 27, 2004

    Reader comments on The Brown Bunny:

  • The sole motivator   from Yves F, Aug 27, 2004
  • Re: The sole motivator   from ahmad talohi, Jan 23, 2006
  • Brown Bunny   from johny, Aug 30, 2004
  • Pretentious and boring.   from Pedrito, Sep 9, 2004
  • BROWN BUNNY   from Claire and Mina, Nov 24, 2004
  • bb   from bcs, Mar 30, 2005
  • Re: bb   from FY, Jun 17, 2005
  • Right On The Mark   from Jimmy, Jul 23, 2005
  • best i`ve ever seen   from sami, Jul 31, 2005
  • Re: best i`ve ever seen   from rere, Dec 2, 2005
  • WRONG AGAIN, JOSHUA   from Mat, Aug 7, 2005
  • Re: WRONG AGAIN, JOSHUA   from , Sep 26, 2005
  • Re: WRONG AGAIN, JOSHUA   from cherie, Oct 3, 2005
  • Re: WRONG AGAIN, JOSHUA   from Dima, Jun 14, 2006
  • BORRING AND INSIPIDE!!!!   from Carole, Aug 17, 2005
  • the brown bunny   from caetano veloso, Aug 27, 2005
  • Not Good   from Dilan Dundar, Oct 7, 2005
  • zzzzzzzzzzz   from Lexi, Oct 9, 2005
  • Josh is right. Dumb people are wrong.   from Lee from New Orleans, Oct 12, 2005
  • Poignant, meditative, hard-to-watch.   from quakergal, Oct 30, 2005
  • Brown Bunny - Viewers patience & effort required   from Mindful filmgoer, Nov 19, 2005
  • Re: Brown Bunny - Viewers patience & effort required   from Mindful filmgoer, Nov 21, 2005
  • It is what it is   from A Chloe Sevigny Fan, Dec 15, 2005
  • Well...   from Amanda, Jan 29, 2006
  • review The Brown Bunny   from jack, Feb 5, 2006
  • BROWN BUNNY   from PRISCILLA, Feb 22, 2006
  • "Brown Bunny"   from Ray, Apr 6, 2006
  • common error in student fiction   from gabbyhayes, Jul 20, 2006
  • Re: common error in student fiction   from keri marion, Feb 24, 2007
  • Tony from mulberry   from Tony, Oct 4, 2006
  • Gross   from KD Kertson, Apr 3, 2009
  • Gallo on racism   from Patricia, Feb 11, 2010

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