by James Hansen
With the Cannes Film Festival starting up this week, I think it is a good time to look back at maybe the most notorious film shown at Cannes this decade. Vincent Gallo’s The Brown Bunny, a film that seems to be talked about more than actually seen, premiered at Cannes, unfinished, in 2003 at a running time of 118 minutes. Though that version has not been seen since Cannes where it was shredded by critics, the 93 minute final version of The Brown Bunny, released in theaters in the US in 2004, is both a beautiful and profound exploration of self imposed guilt, isolation, and wounded masculinity. That The Brown Bunny takes the form of a road movie, where a melodramatic path to self discovery is a must, and inverts the methodology in such an effective manner is a credit to Gallo’s direction, editing, and performance. His sly, somber glances, whether on the bike or sitting at a table, are heartfelt and devastating. Underscored perfectly by the spare, low key sound design, The Brown Bunny is not a controversial one trick pony. It’s a great American film.
For those of you who think this must be some sort of trick, I assure you it is not. It may still be a divisive film (although I am still slightly baffled why other than its use of real sex, which some find objectionable), but one that, at the very least, is worth actually being seen. If you watch The Brown Bunny with an open mind, rather than pigeon holing its depths by dismissing it as the movie where Chloe Sevigny actually gives Vincent Gallo a blow job, you’ll find an inspired, intricate piece of work worthy of high praise.