Yes, believe it or not, Vincent Gallo's long-awaited, much bally-hooed and hally-booed Brown Bunny has more going for it than just an eagerly anticipated overtly UNsimulated, fully-realized, keep-the-change blow-job, given by an Academy Award nominated actress. You wouldn't know this by the entertainment media's obsessive coverage of Mr. Gallo's ten-and-a-half inch ego-booster being swallowed up whole by a surprisingly deep-throated Chloe Sevigny. What these crotchedy prudish nay-sayers are not saying about The Brown Bunny is that it is a quiet masterpiece, in the minimilistic style of Bela Tarr and/or Tsai Ming-Liang.
After recieving a standing ovation of boos and catcalls at last year's Cannes Film Festival, The Brown Bunny bore the brunt of a very public verbal attack from Hollywood's number one Film Critic, Roger "I like anything, as long as it is not too daring or experimental" Ebert, who called the film the worst thing to ever play at Cannes. Gallo, never one to hold back his opinions, no matter how callous they may seem, in retaliation called Ebert a fat pig and wished him dead of colon cancer. Since then, and after a threat of burning all copies and never making another film again, Gallo went back into the proverbial editing room and chopped off 27 or so minutes from his Cannes-astrophe (God that was a bad pun, huh?) - and in doing so, Gallo has created a deeply wrought despairing look at a man who has lost everything he loves and in turn is losing his mind from lonliness. Even Roger Ebert has now called it a masterpiece (how much a difference a year makes).
Gallo plays Bud, a motorcycle racer who is pining the apparent abandonment of his girl, Daisy. Along his path cross-country to find Daisy again, Bud has three short encounters with three different women. First there is Violet, who Bud sadly begs to come to California with him, only to drive away as she goes inside to pack her bag. Next is Lily, played by a haggardly sexy Cheryl Teigs, who Bud encounters along a highway rest stop. Bud and Lily, nearly wordlessly make-out until Bud finally pushes her away and walks off. The third girl, Rose, is a young prostitute whom Bud picks up and takes out to McDonalds for lunch, before tossing her back out onto the street she came from.
These sad encounters show Bud falling apart, and yes, in case you missed it - Bud is spreading his "seed" to Violet, Lily, Rose and finally (and literally), in a stark white hotel room in LA, to Daisy. These women are the flowers of his despair - the flowers of his evil.
Folly, error, sin and avarice
Occupy our minds and waste our bodies,
And we feed our polite remorse
As beggars feed their lice.
-opening lines from Baudelaire's Les Fleurs dul Mal (Flowers of Evil)
Bud's one other encounter is with Daisy's mother (and a man who may or may not be her father). Tragic enough in its own right as Daisy's mother can't remember the past - but even more tragic when looked upon with hindsight. In fact, all throughout Brown Bunny, Gallo has created a despairing visual style full of long, seemingly endless takes - mostly done wordlessly as the camera peers out of Bud's birdshit-stained windshield. Wordless, but still speaking volumes above most other American films of today (with the possible exception of the most recent Gus Van Sant works).
What Gallo has created (which he only hinted at in his first film, Buffalo 66) is a beautifully sad masterpiece - and although a lot of critics agree with that assessment, they have also voiced en masse about Gallo's great narcissism. Yes, Vincent Gallo does aim his camera at Vincent Gallo an awful lot in Brown Bunny - but in no way can this be construed as narcissistic. When Vincent Gallo shows Vincent Gallo on the screen, what we see is an ugly, twisted human being in a very ugly twisted and sad light. Gallo uses his camera to decapitate himself visually - an artist's way of self-mutilation. Gallo - who is an asshole in interviews - here shows the vulnerable side we usually don't see. Gallo has created a minimalist masterpiece that goes far beyond a simple blow-job. [09/13/04]