Friday, May 30, 2003

These days, you take your amusement where you can get it. An odd but effective source is L'affaire Brown Bunny at the Cannes film festival, named for, well, The Brown Bunny, an entrant starring the actor Vincent Gallo, who also produced, directed, wrote the screenplay, and seems to have done just about everything else except set carpentry. This is one film that truly has an auteur. But, pace Roger Ebert, it has little else to recommend it:

The film consists of an unendurable 90 minutes of uneventful banality, as Gallo's character travels cross-country toward a motorcycle race in California, followed by a hard-core sex scene in which he imagines he receives fellatio from his lost love, played by Chloe Sevigny. Let it be said that Sevigny, who reportedly cried during the screening, is heroic in the way she finds conviction and truth in her character, in the midst of the general catastrophe. Many minutes of the earlier scenes consist of such shots as a windshield gradually accumulating dead bugs.

Cannes was reportedly abuzz with strange notions about how this film, the lowest-rated entrant in the history of the festival, ever got made in the first place -- ranging from the idea that the film was produced and submitted to the festival as a practical joke on the organizers, to the leering hints dropped by the Telegraph that the movie may have been an excuse to film that ten-minute-long sex scene. (Gallo is quoted as saying that he has been obsessed with Sevigny since she was a preteen, and that he cried when filming ended because he was "kind of in love with her").

In any case, surveying the wreckage, Gallo, whose first film was much better received, has reportedly decided to quit directing altogether. But there's no pleasing everybody:

... the tedium is weirdly transcendental. Even before the graphic and very affecting sex scene near the end of this film, I had become rapt. I felt I had entered another zone of being, one in which the film's minimal dialogue seemed sincere, eloquent and profoundly moving.

Gallo has produced a cussed and true near-masterpiece, arthouse in the way it looks and is paced, but deeply accessible in its emotional power. Along with Uzak, whose vulnerability and brooding intensity at times it recalls, The Brown Bunny would make a deserving competition winner.


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