Monday, December 8, 2008

Film #95: The Brown Bunny

2003's The Brown Bunny, written and directed by the inimitable Vincent Gallo, is an even more significant achievement that his late-90s cult-hit debut Buffalo '66, which left many viewers stricken with its quiet yet demanding quirkiness. Like The Brown Bunny, it too told a lonely, needy story. But Gallo's newest and more resplendent work engraves into our subconcious the overcast feeling of a heartbreak that just won’t go away. Though motorcycle racer Bud Clay (Gallo) leads an at least nominally exciting life, the film (despite its mesmerizing long first shot) refuses to capitalize on the thrills his profession inspires. The powerful adrenals are overcome by a crushed psyche.

The Brown Bunny is short on plot, but it carefully dabs emotion all over the place; it's an expressionist's drama. Our fly-on-the-wall journey with Bud, as he crosses the U.S. from New England to a race in California, reveals sharp realities at every turn. On the road, he meets three women with noticibly floral names—Lily (Cheryl Tiegs), Rose (Elizabeth Blake) and Violet (Anna Varechi). Each possesses something that catches his eye, but their attachments are nevertheless fleeting. The intimate mystery of his greatest love and heartbreak reveals itself slowly, climaxing in one of the most controversial scenes in motion picture history, and resulting in one of this decade’s most unfairly-judged works.

Gallo's movie has been talked about a great deal since its release, but for all the wrong reasons (but, of course, it doesn't help that Gallo felt he needed to capitalize on the seemier side of his movie with an L.A. billboard that mirrors the cover of the film's soundtrack album). The Brown Bunny achieved an ADULTS ONLY stamp for its third-act love scene between Gallo and his ex-girlfriend Chloe Sevigny. However, their one scene together is memorable not just for its frank sexuality, but also for its unswervingly honest depiction of the hell that one must go through to move on down the road, past the past. The whole film, is in fact both about running away and running to something at the same time (very much like racing is). It depicts the sort of frantic situations many of us find ourselves in from day to day, but which are rarely as poetically put on film.

The always dedicated and daring Chloe Sevigny found herself, definitely and unfortunately, in the hot seat over her part in the movie; she feels most people commenting negatively on it have never seen it. I suspect she's correct; I'm now reminded of the morons who picketed--without seeing--Scorsese's Last Temptation of Christ even though it was the most spiritually inspiring film since Pasolini's The Gospel According to St. Matthew over two decades earlier. If you've witnessed the rainswept highways from inside Bud's windshield (with songs like Gordon Lightfoot’s “Beautiful” as score), endured the uncomfortable moments where Bud has to reconnect with humanity, or felt the aching sadness with which the film culminates, and then still are unmoved, then you haven't, truly, seen it. The Brown Bunny is a profoundly humanistic achievement by one of America’s boldest cinematic voices.

1 comment:

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