Review: The Brown Bunny

I like to consider myself an appreciator of film.  I watch all kinds, not just for enjoyment but because I want to broaden my mind and my creativity.  To this end, I’ve become a customer of NetFlix (woo).  This week’s selection?  The Brown Bunny  by Vincent Gallo.

Ok, if you’ve seen this film, or heard of it, you know the controversy surrounding it.  If you have no clue what I’m talking about… well, good.  I’ll get to that in a second.

I started my brief Vincent Gallo kick by watching his previous film, Buffalo 66.  It was incredible!  I really went into that film with no expectations and walked away with a feeling that I’d just experienced something truly unique.  Gallo has a style that’s his.  It certainly draws on great influences (Goddard would be a likely candidate), while at the same time, Buffalo 66 had those elements that make a great film: characters that you believe in, a story that carries you through, and a progression of events that bring about a real change in the characters.  Buffalo 66 had those elements in spades.  The Brown Bunny does not!

The story is basically encapsulated in : Despondent motorcycle racer drives van across country while pining for lost love.

1.5 hours could easily have been condensed into 10 minutes.

The majority of the film has no dialogue (not necessarily bad : a matter of style), no plot progression (bad), and is more or less non-stop portraits of Gallo himself (who, by the way is writer, director, lead actor, editor, and cinematographer).  It’s like watching someone preen them self in the mirror over and over and over.  Not to mention the final minutes which finally show some progression in the story, but only through the device of a very graphic sex scene and a (I’m sorry to say) rape scene.  It goes beyond over-the-top.  It was just revolting.  Rape, as an idea, as a word, in and of itself is horrible enough and conjures things that scare and upset the audience in ways that make the point; there was no reason to depict it on film.  I’m not being some kind of censor here.  I’m not out to say what’s decent or indecent.  I am out to say that moments in a film are like words in a book : they need to serve a purpose.  Showing a rape scene served no purpose.

But wait…  I’m not going to be negative about the whole experience.    As I told my brother, who watched the film with me, I’m glad I watched it just for the education (I mean, even when I eat something I end up disliking, I at least feel good that I tried it).  The Brown Bunny is not anything I would recommend to anyone.  Buffalo 66, yes, but not this film.  I am glad I saw the cinematography (it was beautiful at many moments).  The editing created a definite unease which was very masterfully handled : however that unease, like the movie as a whole became redundant and self-serving.  That’s really what it comes down to in my mind: this movie was self-serving and not, in any balanced way, designed to serve the audience.  However, I don’t want to overlook the fact that a man got in a van and made a movie.  Vincent Gallo put together a guerilla project that he believed in, and I think that’s an accomplishment in-and-of itself.


Review : The Dark Knight

Saturday evening, some friends and I saw The Dark Knight.  I had been excited to see what Ledger would do with the ultimate villain.  I’ve been a comic book fan since I was 12, and the Joker is just one of those truly infectious criminals.  Of course, there was the syndicated Cesar Romero interpretation, as well as Jack Nicholson and even the cartoon on FOX, but what would Ledger do?  Would it be like the graphic novels?  Less the smile and more the madness? – a man so twisted  there is no reason behind the sociopath, he just is a sociopath.

With absolute certainty, I saw the Joker last night.  The scars of his grin caused him to lick his lips as if incessantly tasting exhilaration.  The vision is revolting, the experience: captivating.  My brother and I talked into the morning about  several things including an actor becoming a villian.  It was Adam who brought up the idea of guilt at experiencing something so incredible that costs a man so much.  I’m not out to imply becoming the Joker killed Heath Ledger.  I do think it’d be naive to imply it didn’t hurt him.  I am a believer the best actors become their character.  If I am watching Ledger become evil, am I enjoying his pain?  

But then, that opens a whole other discussion about what motivates a great actor.  What highs does s/he attain when an actor of moral fiber becomes a sociopath of anarchistic aspirations?  My feeling is there is a similar “thrill” underlining the actor and the motivation of the character.  It all boils down to the thrill, the experience.  It’s my motivation in the audience, enjoying this second hand thrill, from the safety of stadium seats.

I won’t put The Dark Night among my favorite films, yet.  I have to watch it again.  I think Ledger was the jewel.  Very early in the movie, I didn’t feel the craft of the film met the performance of the man.  There were a few odd cuts where someone’s head would be looking down, then suddenly up and it just felt like something obvious had been overlooked.  Stuff like that wakes me up from the dream.  Though, those interruptions were fairly few and only in the first half hour.  I can let them go.

Outside those moments, the film was mesmerizing.  One of my top criteria is an unbroken experience.  My experience was broken over the last hour, but it wasn’t the film’s fault.  I kept having to reposition myself in the low-backed chair.  Therefore, I’ll need to watch this one again in the comfort of my home before really evaluating where it sits in my list of films.  Regardless, if you get a chance, see it.   Right now, I’d give it a 4 of 5.  Thunderous, dark, exhilarating.


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