The Brown Bunny is a perfect portrait of human isolation on a cross-country trip. Riding in and out of peoples’ lives along the way, representing the harsh fact of life which consists of solitude and people coming and mostly going. Ultimately in our lives we are alone. Even in a room full of people, no one quite understands someone else through and through. At best all one can do is try and find the common bond between you and another and try to spend your time together living through that one channel of familiarity. Vincent Gallo’s film is like a breathtaking work of art that deals with these elements of existence and to an extent expresses that our lost minds could be likened to a lonesome cross-country trip that will seemingly never end; where the best thing to hope for is a series of temporary distractions along the way. But like all fantasies, they do wear off before too long. Maybe Gallo is saying that life is simply an endless journey with distractions along the way to divert our attention from the fact that life is a long pointless trip.
Bud Clay (Vincent Gallo) is a motorcycle racer who at the end of a race, decides to take a lonesome journey across America. Along the way, Bud briefly meets up with various characters which he does not get to know at all. Bud’s journey may seem futile; however the real voyage is not along the road but inside him. Bud’s attempt is to reunite with Daisy (Chloë Sevingy), but is he driving towards her or farther away?
There is a particularly vivid scene where Bud stops along the way to take his bike for a ride on a salt plain motorbike circuit of endless white. He is engulfed in total pallor which represents an endless sea of nothingness and he then rides off into the distance only he doesn’t appear to be gaining any territory because it never ends.
The use of unbroken takes and limited camera angles further enhances the experience that life cannot be re-lived. Life can only be lived once and the rest is a memory. This is the biggest challenge that faces Bud. I think Gallo intended to make a once watch film because life is a journey that can only be experienced once; making art and life imitate one another. Vincent Gallo films life unfolding only to fold in the end. The performances are about as lifelike as a narrative film can get and Vincent Gallo stands out in a faultless suppressed performance where we can feel a damaged soul who has an eruption cooking deep inside his heart.
The infamous and much talked about ‘f******o’ scene received more controversy than it warranted and I just felt that the propaganda of that one scene took so much away from the real point of the big picture of the film. And so what! Chloë Sevingy really went down on Vincent Gallo! Is that such a big deal, I mean what is the difference between that and say an actor doing all his own stunts? I know which I would safely choose first!
Vincent Gallo is pretty much the one man show of the film, as he has sole credits in almost every department which to me makes the film all the more personal. I am a huge fan of Gallo’s directorial debut “Buffalo 66” and this film acts as a great companion piece to his alienated character from the former. I think Gallo’s vision is for the most part misinterpreted as many people watch a film and only notice the writing on the wall, refusing to read between the lines. The critical assassination of the film has been the talk of the film community upon its release, notably the feud between Gallo and Roger Ebert which quickly turned into an on-going verbal bashing back and forth. Initially, Ebert called the film “the worst in the history of Cannes” to which Gallo replied that Ebert was “a fat pig with the physique of a slave trader”. I think Ebert’s need to always have the final say won him the feud by a short stretch but that is not to say that I agree with his views. But wouldn’t you know he eventually gave the cut version of the film a “thumbs up” and now things are civil.
The Brown Bunny was the first film I caught at the 2005 Melbourne Underground Film Festival and it was subtly electrifying if those two words can harmonise in your eyes? The film opened to a near full house but ended with a little more than half of the audience still in attendance. A dozen left at the twenty minute mark and a dozen more left right after the f******o scene; missing the ending. The mentality of people like this really angers me but I guess I can take comfort in the fact that I left the theatre so enlightened. I would love to work with this man as he is a genius in my eyes. An amazing visionary and a new style of story telling created; in a contemporary age where that seems almost unachievable. Vincent Gallo is way ahead of his time and maybe he will get the respect he deserves in years to come.