Bud Clay (Vincent Gallo) is a motorcycle racer driving cross-country back home to Los Angeles. During this long road trip, thoughts of his ex-girlfriend, Daisy (Chloe Sevigny), flood his mind, consuming him as he reaches out for affection at every stop on his journey. Slowly traveling through town after town, Bud's mind grows more and more weary, until a lone encounter with Daisy in a bleak hotel room presents itself as a moment for Bud to make peace.
"The Brown Bunny" (IMDb listing) has such a sordid history, I don't even know where to begin. Written, edited, photographed, scored, and starring Vincent Gallo (who also created the modern comedic classic "Buffalo 66"), "Brown Bunny" is the type of personal artistic assault that could either be considered a stroke of genius or a bubbling pit of narcissism that swallows any life force that comes near it. Notoriously trashed at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival (Roger Ebert called it the worst film ever shown at the fest), "Brown Bunny" is finally seeing the light of day in America. Would you believe it's actually quite good?
"Bunny" isn't a film for everybody, made apparent right away with Gallo's protracted road trip sequences, in which minutes slowly roll by as the audience merely watches long static shots of Bud thinking. The film follows the aesthetic of Gus Van Sant's last few pictures, "Gerry" and "Elephant," which tried to make a larger point through long takes of nothing happening. But unlike the Van Sant pictures, Gallo's film is bursting with emotional significance, which is palpable throughout the picture, but only clearly understood in the finale. "Brown Bunny" isn't a sprightly film, but its languid pace, unusual confidence and independent creativity are something to see -- and sometimes they're even more interesting than the film itself.
The most infamous scene in "Brown Bunny" is a third act sequence where Daisy meets Bud in a hotel room and, in a fit of desire and apology, performs oral sex on him as they work through their problems. The sex act isn't simulated, and it represents again that fine line Gallo walks along between ego and pathos. The moment already sticks out like a sore thumb because it doesn't resemble anything else in the movie, but it provides shock value that jolts the movie alive, and, for deeper consideration, a moment of intimacy where no intimacy is preferred between the former lovers.
What's really missing from "Brown Bunny" is Gallo's rich and quirky sense of humor, which was so colorfully displayed in "Buffalo 66." "Bunny" is a serious piece on the ravages of grief and the denials of the mind, and it should be viewed under that microscope alone. It certainly has all the elements of a gaudy ego trip, but Gallo is after something more profound. It might feel like a million years to get to the destination, but the journey, along with the chance to view a rare individual cinematic accomplishment, is worth the trouble.
Filmfodder Grade: B+