Sep 21, 2005

brown bunny

Brown Bunny is the latest film from Vincent Gallo. The film caused a lot of controversy when it was first shown at Cannes. First and foremost, it included an oral sex scene with the director and Chloe Sevigny (his ex-girlfriend). And second, it was soundly panned; most notably by Roger Ebert. This set off a war between the two with Gallo putting a hex on Ebert's prostrate and Ebert claiming that a video of his colonoscopy was better than Gallo's movie. Apparently things were patched up between the two with Gallo making some editing changes and Ebert amazingly giving it a thumbs up.

I rented it mainly on the strength of his previous movie, Buffalo 66. To this day it is one my favorite films. In my mind there is not one thing that should be changed with that movie. I also rented it on the strenght of Gallo. Gallo is an incredibly interesting person. His first claim to fame was as a model. He was one of the 'heroine chic' models that Calvin Klein used in his advertisements. He's a striking looking individual. A mix between a traditional model and a daguerreotype era criminal. But he is also a painter, musician, actor, motorcycle racer, writer, break dancer, and director. He's also incredibly outspoken, controversial, and perplexing. In other words he is fascinating.

One of his more well known controversial comments stated that he quit painting because he had peaked and he wanted to deny anyone the further beauty of his paintings... out of spite. While his artistic work is edgy he is conservative politically. My view of everything he does is that of a study in total opposites. Broadly, he seems like the most contrived, pretentious, and self-centered person one could meet. And yet he seems, at the same time, the complete opposite of that. It's a difficult characteristic to explain and in my mind this makes him extremely unique.

The story of Brown Bunny is similar to that of Buffalo 66. The lead character is an insecure, controlling, lonely, intimacy-phobic freak, desperately yearning for attention and grounding. He's lost and grieving. How much this person mirrors the real Gallo I don't know.

To give an example of how he seems to exhibit totally contradictory characteristics consider this. Both films are pointedly slow and deliberate in pace. But it's unclear if every shot was thoroughly thought out, planned, storyboarded, reshot, and rewritten or just done on a whim in one take. I can't tell. But to quote Forrest Gump, "I think maybe it's both." Not much happens in a Gallo film. It's that slow. This polarizes people's views of his films. And he's either thoroughly unlikable or thoroughly interesting. Again polarizing critics. At times you are convinced the movie is an exercise in pure ego and at times you are convinced it's utterly egoless. Contrasts.

To me this deliberate pacing heightens any emotions he wishes to convey - loneliness, the psychotic controlling nature of his characters, the apathy, etc. It reminds me of the effect that a "The Man Who Fell To Earth" or the effect any Kubrick film creates. The entire film consists of a cross country drive punctuated with conversations with a few people - a hooker, a checkout lady, an old girlfriend, etc. Each interlude showing his utter inability to interact normally with women.

This culminates in the aforementioned BJ scene after a conversation between Gallo and an ex-girlfriend. And then some light is spilled on the backstory. It doesn't sound like much but it is incredibly powerful. It unfortunately lacks Buffalo 66's humor. But there is something poetic about it like Buffalo 66. Something simple and unrefined. What Gallo doesn't do in either film is give you the full backstory to the main character. He also doesn't give you much dialogue to go on. Just long pondering shots of the main character, clearly in pain. I suspect on one level Gallo does this because he wants you to relate any bout of angst in your life with what he is going through. It is the visual equivalent of that depressing album you put on when you are filled with self loathing. He wants you to share in his grief and guilt and take part in the imaginary world he tries to create around himself to wall off the pain. It's clearly not a movie for everyone but it's clearly not the "worst movie ever made" as Ebert first proclaimed. It is however, clearly daring cinema.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Actually Roger Ebert gave "Brown Bunny" a "Thumbs up!" on his TV program (and it's probably in print and on the web too) after it was severely trimmed by Gallo (or somebody!). At Cannes where he first saw it, he did indeed trash it which threw Gallo into a shit fit. I found it totally boring up until the time he got the blow job. That scene definitely got a "rise" out of me if you know what I mean. Call me weird but I'd much rather watch somebody get sucked off than somebody getting their guts shot out or their brains blown out! Gallo is a pretty smart guy too...remind me if I ever write a movie for me to star in to include a scene of a lovely woman (ex girlfriend or not) giving me a blow job! Yeah!