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BROWN BUNNY, THE(director/writer: Vincent Gallo; cinematographer: Vincent Gallo; editor: Vincent Gallo; music: Gordon Lightfoot; cast: Vincent Gallo (Bud Clay), Chloë Sevigny (Daisy), Cheryl Tiegs (Lilly), Anna Vareschi (Violet), Elizabeth Blake (Rose), Mary Morasky (Mrs. Lemon); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Vincent Gallo; Wellspring; 2003)
“A humorless self-indulgent and self-loathing mess that is saddled with an uninteresting story and arty pretensions.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The Brown Bunny premiered at Cannes to much derision from the critics. VincentGallo’s second feature, a follow-up to his acclaimed goofy comedy “Buffalo ’66,” is a humorless self-indulgent and self-loathing mess that is saddled with an uninteresting story and arty pretensions. The original version is cut by some 30 minutes, which probably helped a great deal in improving its clarity. Blame for its shortcomings fall completely to Gallo, who is producer, director, writer, cinematographer, editor, and star.

It’s a road film about a grief-stricken motorcycle racer named Bud Clay (Vincent Gallo) who loses a meet in New Hampshire and drives by his lonesome self in his van cross-country back to his Los Angeles residence. In the background Gordon Lightfoot’s mellifluous-voiced folk tunes are heard, as Bud visits with his former girlfriend’s parents in their drab bungalow and eerily discovers they don’t remember he was their next door neighbor as a child. He’s also picks up an assortment of available women on the way that includes a shy convenience store clerk named Violet whom he begs to come with him to California and dumps her after she goes home to pack, a streetwalker named Rose who he just wants to chat with, and a washed-out looking Lilly (Cheryl Tiegs, former 1970s supermodel and pinup queen). The scene with Lilly was risible. She’s sitting outside on a bench at a highway rest-stop when he feels her loneliness and approaches and after a few insignificant words is making out with her. He then abruptly walks back to his van and leaves her high and dry. I don’t think anything after that could save this film.

Nothing much happens until the final fifteen minutes, as Bud drives through the rain and we get a look at the American landscape through his windshield as he wends his way across such states as Ohio, Missouri and Nevada. There are many shots of Bud’s profile, his unsmiling face, and his concerned looks as he continues his nebulous search for something. In L.A. he meets his former flame Daisy (Chloë Sevigny) in a roadside motel and at last we learn that he was searching for a good blow job. The sex scene is explicit but not sexy (supposedly they had real sex). It leads to clearing up what’s bugging our man, which turns out to be a twisted case of male guilt over not protecting his drug addict girlfriend from being raped. The search into Bud’s soul ends ambiguously, as our man gets what he wants and splits. There’s nothing more to the film to ponder, except it left me with an empty feeling and a lasting impression of Chloë Sevigny as a brave actress who succumbs to the delusional wishes of her domineering male director out in the open instead of on the casting couch. I know one thing for sure–though many critics called this the “worst” film ever, that is simply not the case. Even though Gallo’s huge ego shows its ugly face, the hard-core porn sequence was exploitative and there were many other vexing things about this superficial search for identity that failed to register, yet there were also a few beautiful scenes that were original and took more chances than most indie films ever do; such as, the conversation with Daisy’s doddering parents as Bud pets Daisy’s titular pet brown rabbit and fails to make contact with his past. That is a wonderfully realized way to give us an inkling to his broken heart, his isolation, and will help us see after his journey is completed his pathological need to be liked by women who are named for flowers.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”