`Bunny' is a story of grief, regret

But you won't know it until movie's over


October 08, 2004|By Deborah Hornblow | Deborah Hornblow,HARTFORD COURANT

If audiences knew at the beginning of Brown Bunny even a small bit of what they know at the end, it might have spared Vincent Gallo's infamous movie from becoming the scandal of last year's Cannes Film Festival.

It is true that watching Brown Bunny in forward motion is close to excruciating. Until it's over, it is hard to imagine how the director of the 1998 indie Buffalo '66 could be the same mind behind this picture.

Gallo's Brown Bunny is missing something crucial from the start. As the film opens, you see Gallo's professional motorcycle racer, Bud, careening around a dirt track somewhere in New Hampshire. Gallo gives us no idea of the race's outcome. We watch Bud load his bike into a black van and begin a cross-country drive to California.

From here, the film is a collection of scenes of Bud driving, rubbing his eyes, making pit stops, and rubbing his eyes again. He meets a young gas station attendant (Anna Vareschi); an older woman (former model Cheryl Tiegs), who sits at a rest stop; and he detours for a visit to the parents of his girlfriend, Daisy (Chloe Sevigny), who he sees in occasional flashbacks. It is Daisy's brown bunny, in a cage in her parents' kitchen, that gives the film its title.

For much of the picture, Gallo's camera remains fixed on his own face, which led many critics to charge the director with extreme narcissism. The camera stays on Bud as he spends long stretches on the road alone, through sun and rain and dark and occasional stops to sleep or splash water in his face.

At this point, you may find yourself looking at your watch, and wondering if the sole purpose of Gallo's plot is to suggest he is irresistible to women.

But Bud finally gets to California, and in a few overwrought but strangely affecting scenes, he has a reunion with Daisy. The infamous -- and unnecessary -- sex scene unfolds. There, you think, Brown Bunny is about Gallo needing to portray himself as a super stud! But then something unexpected happens.

Here, too late, is the innocent, tender notion of what it means to love someone "only" and love someone "the most." Here is the idea of what happens when some or all of that falls apart. The scenes that have gone before achieve a poignancy and, here, I'll say it, sweetness that eludes the film as it plays in forward motion. Brown Bunny is a story of shock, grief, numbness and regret, only you will not know why until it is over.

The Hartford Courant is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

Brown Bunny

Starring Vincent Gallo, Chloe Sevigny

Directed by Vincent Gallo

Unrated (explicit sex scene)

Released by Wellspring Media

Time 92 minutes

Sun Score **1/2

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