The Brown Bunny

Actor-turned-filmmaker Vincent Gallo's strange second feature isn't the first movie to cause a near-riot among the cineasts at Cannes: Antonioni's L'AVVENTURA (1960), Reinhard Hauff's STAMMHEIM (1986) and David Cronenberg's CRASH (1996) come immediately to mind. Few, however, managed to generate such vituperative word of mouth. So it actually comes as something...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Actor-turned-filmmaker Vincent Gallo's strange second feature isn't the first movie to cause a near-riot among the cineasts at Cannes: Antonioni's L'AVVENTURA (1960), Reinhard Hauff's STAMMHEIM (1986) and David Cronenberg's CRASH (1996) come immediately to mind. Few, however, managed to generate such vituperative word of mouth. So it actually comes as something of a disappointment to find that the film is not worse than Roger Ebert's colonoscopy, as the critic claimed in a post-Cannes dustup with Gallo, but that it's actually quite interesting, albeit in a supremely self-conscious and artsy-fartsy way. The film chronicles the cross-country road trip taken by Bud Clay (Gallo), a solitary motocross racer who's trying to get from New England to L.A. in time for his next race. Along the way he encounters several women, all named after flowers, beginning with Violet (Anna Vareschi), the teenager at the gas-station convenience store whom Bud begs to join him on his trek, only to change his mind at the last minute. He meets weeping Lilly ('70s icon Cheryl Tiegs) at a Midwest rest stop and the pair share a silent, sexually charged moment. In Reno, Bud treats a young hooker named Rose (Elizabeth Blake) to lunch at a McDonalds Drive-Thru. But the flower Bud desires most is his missing sweetheart, Daisy Lemon (Chloe Sevigny), whom Bud knew as a child and whom he last saw in L.A. at the bungalow they now share. After ditching Violet, Bud pays a visit to Daisy's mother, who's been caring for her daughter's brown bunny rabbit since Daisy left home, but she's no help: Not only hasn't Mrs. Lemon heard from Daisy in months, she has no recollection of Bud at all. Gallo communicates more about his character through style than dialogue — sound and music, particularly the haunting ballad lifted from a spooky episode of The Twilight Zone, also become key signifiers — and the film's dreamlike aura is enhanced by the way Gallo chooses to film himself: He's never quite in focus, never quite in frame, never entirely there. Long before Gallo had found a distributor willing to take on a project with such abysmal buzz, his movie became notorious for the climactic scene in which Sevigny performs oral sex on her costar. Whether or not it's essential to the thematics of the film — and it's easy to argue that it is — the extended moment is in keeping with the kind of film Gallo is clearly trying to make: an artistic homage to exploratory films of the 1970s, when the existential journeys of isolated characters weren't taken at face value and shrilly dismissed as pretentious ego trips. It's clear from the Cannes reaction to Gallo's sometimes clumsy, but always heartfelt attempt to make something meaningful that those days are long gone.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Actor-turned-filmmaker Vincent Gallo's strange second feature isn't the first movie to cause a near-riot among the cineasts at Cannes: Antonioni's L'AVVENTURA (1960), Reinhard Hauff's STAMMHEIM (1986) and David Cronenberg's CRASH (1996) come immediately to… (more)

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