Thursday, October 12, 2006

Random DVD round-up 6 - THE BROWN BUNNY ****

THE BROWN BUNNY gets four stars for sheer bloody-minded commitment to the concept and the brave performances from writer-director Vincent Gallo and Chloë Sevigny. Gallo plays a motorcycle racing driver and the movie takes its title from his professional nick-name. For much of the film we watch without the benefit of dialogue or plot as he simply drives across country. It's like looking at the shot on the right, or at an extreme close-up of Gallo looking moody and intense. The first time I watched it, as much as I wanted to admire its perverse purity, I just found it rather dull. Even in the re-edited, shorter version, that I was watching. And then, the movie flips into something rather astounding. Gallo's character has an encounter with his ex-girlfriend in which he verbally abuses her and she mortifies herself by giving him a blow job.

THE BROWN BUNNY attracted a lot of flack for its unsimulated sex scene and partly beccause of Gallo's vicious response to Ebert's justified (and then re-formulated) criticism. But it has also attracted a lot of admiration. This is summed up by the citation accompanying the 2003 Viennale FIPRESCI (critics) award: "for its bold exploration of yearning and grief and for its radical departure from dominant tendencies in current American filmmaking." I guess I agree. This movie is admirable for going against the grain - and the final twenty minutes really are unforgettable and moving quite apart from the sensational sex scene. Chloe Sevigny and Vincent Gallo are outstanding. More to the point, once you see the ending unfold you sort of understand why the slow build-up was necessary and how it makes the movie what it is. And that is: a truly original and admirable - if painful - viewing experience.

THE BROWN BUNNY played Cannes 2003. It is available on Region 1 and 2 DVD.

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