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.
By JOSHUA TANZER
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.
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.
|THE BROWN BUNNY|
|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
"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.
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|
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Reader comments on The Brown Bunny:
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