THE BROWN BUNNY
DIRECTOR: VINCENT GALLO
WRITER: VINCENT GALLO
CINEMATOGRAPHY: VINCENT GALLO
WITH: Vincent Gallo, Cheryl Tiegs, Chloe Sevigny, Elizabeth Blake, Anna Vareschi, Mary Morasky
ONE WORD: One man film, that feels like a home movie, until it explodes.
It's hard not to judge this film for what it might be or what it is not. I kinda look at this film as one of those things that happens ... sort of "a day in the life" when things happen or do not happen, and there are always things that affect the way you and I think that may or may not be film material.
We all have an image of what film ought to be and what it not ought to be. And in my book this film kinda defines a lot of things (although probably not intentional) that is totally opposite what film has become today, and most critics and audiences expect to see, from action, to some adventure, to some event that triggers the story, to an eventual conclusion that shatters all ideas and opinions that any of us might have gathered in the time as we sit and watch a film ... and then there is this film!
All in all, until the ending when this film finally opens up to the insides of the man in the story, this film is rather bland, quiet, and creates an atmosphere that is just expecting something to jump out at us ... and it doesn't. This is not easy to do in film, and maintaining that discipline will usually get most films pasted by critics in this business, and a slow developing story doesn't help ... in this case the camera just follows this person in cinema verite form, or almost documentary style. No words ... just the visuals, and I suppose that it makes us feel like ... where is the story?
"The Brown Bunny" is not a great thing on its own, if one considers its totality ... one can't help feeling that something is either missing, or that the film is simply not complete. When we first see the man on his way to California and pick up a young prostitute, whom he appears to just unload, and then meet later an acquaintance on the road to his destination (Cheryl Tiegs) ... and eventually get closer to his destination ... one kinda wonders what is there, other than another motorcycle race and an accident, or death to end a "story". In a moment that I thought the film really woke up, Cheryl Tiegs expressions in this film during 5 minutes of silence, really express the agony and the desperation that some things in life bring us ... she appears madly in love with him, but he seems incapable of giving it to her other than sharing a passionate kiss, as if it had been a reminder of something long gone by. But the discipline and direction to maintain these two early events totally "quiet" and not expound on their feelings, or how they might force him to open up, really is what this film is about. And in the end, he finally busts up and does open up, when the film just simply lets go, and explodes on our faces. In a matter of minutes we see this films story and the reason why this man is a loner and quiet and is not capable of sharing his feelings in the previous situations ... just like his visit to the parents of a friend of his in the past simply shows two older folks, grandpa dozing in the chair and grandma kinda absently remembering a few things or not. And the only thing "living" in that moment is a brown rabbit in a cage. While not important per se, and it does generate the title, in a way, this is the only "symbolic" gesture this movie ever makes, and yet it does not exactly help define anything in the film or its main character.
But it is a commendable exercise in direction when a film can maintain its continuity and "empty" mind set, with few words, mostly camera visuals - something that too many critics that adore action can not appreciate and enjoy, or perhaps understand. This is an important consideration when watching this movie since any expectation here will probably lead you out of the door, or close the DVD rental -- and miss out its explosion ... which while not something that many of us enjoy sitting through, in the end, is the one thing that happens him open up, to help us learn something/anything about this person. In a way, it is the event that allows his guilt, and story to come through, and without some extraordinary event of this kind, specially on film (other than pornography!), to spill out and make a full sense of this film. All of a sudden the previous "quiet" film is a nice analogy for what this man has become, someone incapable of talking about something that happened that was in the end traumatic for him ... and for all those interested, then, the film does indeed have a story and continuity, which only became clear in the end.
The acting in this film, including the actress (Chloe Sevigny) that triggers the end of the film, is so subtle and well designed that it is hard to think of it as acting, although one could almost say that in a matter of minutes Cheryl Tiegs managed to showcase acting abilities and talents that are rarely showcased in American theaters and film. Something that most actors are afraid to do and show ... when they do not have lines and have to react ... something that drives actors nuts and directors to scream. And to me, that moment defines this film and hopefully it will not be dismissed because of an event at the end of the film, whom some folks may find disturbing.
In the end, there is much about our lives that could be thought that way, and we are often too quiet about it all, causing us to not reveal a lot about ourselves, and sometimes react in ways that some folks may not enjoy, or appreciate. Think of that when you are watching this film.
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