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Pros: Some Fine Moments in Gallo's Direction, Cinematography, & Cast.
Cons: Extremely Slow that It Comes Off in a Very Self-Indulgent & Pretentious Way.
The 2003 Cannes Film Festival in the French Riviera wasnt one of the most memorable of festivals despite some top-notch films from Frances Francois Ozon with his international hit film Swimming Pool and Gus Van Sants Elephant which took home the Best Director prize and the coveted Palme Dor. Another film many remembered but for all the wrong reasons that was up for main competition was from independent film actor Vincent Gallo. After his 1998 directorial debut for Buffalo '66", Gallo did more acting before deciding to make another film. After having troubles with casting that originally had the likes of Kirsten Dunst and Winona Ryder, Gallo put indie film queen Chloe Sevigny for his sophomore film. When the resulting film entitled The Brown Bunny came out at Cannes in 2003, the 119-minute film received boos from the audience, notably a fellatio scene involving Sevigny and Gallo that caused stir. Even respected film critic Roger Ebert called The Brown Bunny, the worst ever shown in the history of the festival. Yet, Eberts pan and his brief feud with Gallo caused more buzz at the movie as Gallo would later re-cut the movie to a simple 90-minute with the fellatio scene still in tact.
The Brown Bunny is a road movie about a motorcycle racer named Bud Clay who goes on a road trip to California for an upcoming race while dealing with the memories of his ex-girlfriend Daisy while encountering a few people along the way. Written, directed, shot, produced, edited, and everything else by Gallo, The Brown Bunny is a film that explores the mind of a man who is yearning to his lost love. Starring Gallo, Sevigny, and former swimsuit model Cheryl Tiegs; The Brown Bunny is a film that challenges the mind although even in its re-cut version, the film does suffer from its self-indulgence.
After going into a race, Bud Clay (Vincent Gallo) loses but decides to go to California on a cross-country trip for his next race. There, he will meet his ex-girlfriend Daisy (Chloe Sevigny) before he goes to that race. Driving a van with his bike in the back, Bud drives on through the lonely roads before stopping for gas where he charms a young gas cashier named Violet (Anna Vareschi). He drops her off at her place so she can join the trip but Bud just drives off without her before going to his next destination. After a stop at the home where Daisys mother Mrs. Lemon (Mary Morasky) lives, he talks with her and the father about Daisy and notices the pet brown bunny that she had. Bud continues to go into his destination driving through Ohio and Chicago.
After driving through several places, Bud stops at a resting area where he encounters a lonely, distraught woman named Lilly (Cheryl Tiegs) where the two comfort each other in their pain. Bud continues to drive on before stopping in a desert at an abandoned speedway where he decides to ride his bike for a while. Finally, reaching his destination to California, he stops buy at a bike shop for a check-up before he goes to his race. On his way, he meets a young hooker named Rose (Elizabeth Blake) who he buys lunch for and then pays her without any sexual favors. Bud finally stops at a hotel before going to Daisys house where he leaves a note.
Later that night, Daisy finally comes to his hotel room where she has become hooked on drugs and the two have an emotional moment that leads to sex but after that, theres trouble. Bud confronts Daisy about a night where their relationship fell apart and everything just becomes more troubling right at the end.
While the re-edited version of The Brown Bunny does have its moments, you begin to see why the film was cut into 90 minutes for its U.S. release but that doesnt help the film from being great. Despite some fine moments, the overall aspect comes off in a very boring way. While Gus Van Sants Gerry had similar problems with pacing, Gerry worked because of the improvisatory dialogue between Matt Damon and Casey Affleck. In The Brown Bunny, there isnt any of that though the musical cuts from the likes of Gordon Lightfoot, Jeff Alexander, Ted Curson, and Jackson C. Frank, in the background do help things a bit but it isnt enough. Gallos directing does have some fine moments with a stilted camera shots where he film scenes outside of places and captures some wonderful moments on the road. The only places its suffers where the shots would be very jerky at times where there would things that would be very blurry and out of focus. Plus, do we really need extreme close-ups of Gallo in almost an hour of the film?
While the films camera operators Toshiaki Ozawa, John Clemens, and Gallo do have some great shots with nice, grainy cinematography that is almost reminiscent of the personal feel of Super 8 camera films. The film doesnt contain the same richness that Gallos previous film Buffalo '66" has, that was mostly due to the rich, grainy work of Lance Acord. Gallo does a DIY style for shots, even using remote cameras for the infamous oral sex scene between Gallo and Sevigny. With Gallo also giving himself credit with production design, casting, art direction, makeup, and set decoration, the film does have a nice personal feel but comes off at times in a very egotistical way.
Then theres the films infamous oral sex scene where after an hour of being on the road, this is where the film gets its payoff where everything comes into place emotionally. Yet, theres a feeling that the film couldve worked more as a short film where Gallo couldve just edited out all the boring stuff and go right to the hotel scene where we see Sevigny do her thing to Gallo. For those of you who remember a bathroom scene early on in Buffalo '66", will see what Gallo has.
The films small cast does perform well with Mary Morasky in a wonderful performance as Daisys mother while Elizabeth Blake and Anna Vareschi are extremely cute and beautiful in their small roles. Cheryl Tiegs brings a nice, understated performance in her few minutes though it seems she couldve been in the film more. Chloe Sevigny brings a calm, subtle performance as Daisy though she doesnt really bring anything to the role. The film truly belongs to Vincent Gallo who brings a tortured performance to Bud Clay though this is his film, it also seems hes like playing himself more than playing the character.
Whatever controversy it had, The Brown Bunny is still a good film to watch from the multi-talented Vincent Gallo. With a wonderful cast that includes Chloe Sevigny, the film does have some bright moments but its not enough to get past the self-indulgence of the film. Though the re-edited version has brought some acclaim, even from Roger Ebert, there is a feeling that the film couldve been much better. If Gallo added a voice-over or more music to the table and maybe some more dialogue-driven moments, easily it couldve topped Buffalo '66". Instead, Gallo went for more personal territory where it pays off in the third act, which is the main reason to watch the film. In the end, if you want to watch an oral sex scene in a theater aside from a porno theater, watch The Brown Bunny.
Buffalo '66 (1998):