Monday, 1 March 2010

I'm Not Going To Be Okay, Bud.

In the midst of Gus Van Sant's Death trilogy (here and here) Vincent Gallo made a film that was, by many, derided as the worst film to ever play in competition at Cannes. Granted, the version of Gallo's The Brown Bunny that premiered at Cannes was almost 30% longer than the final theatrical release, but I don't know what all the fuss is about. Sure, it's not a terrific film, but I've seen worse from the Cannes competition - much worse. And there were many similarities to Van Sant's death trilogy (hence the opening): moody following shots; silence; long stretches of apparent nothingness speaking much more than the lack of words would attest. My main curiosity is how the hell this film cost US$10mil to make (quoting the estimate on here...)

Gallo (writer, director, lead actor, cinematographer... anything else? Oh yes, camera operator, producer, editor, art director, production designer, makeup, blah blah you get the point) is Bud, a motorcycle racer who has just finished up a race in New Hampshire and is apparently heading over the California for the next one. He stops at a gas station and hits on the young female attendant, Violet (Anna Vareschi), somehow convincing her to come with him. He drops her at her house, she goes in to pack, she comes back out, he is gone.

His next stop is at Daisy's parents' house, a girl we do not know. He says he lived next door when he was growing up and chats to the parents about Daisy, about how the parents visited Bud and Daisy when they lived in California together (they don't remember), and about her pet bunny rabbit, sitting there in the same room, according to the parents the same rabbit she had when Bud was growing up next door. He stops at a pet store after he leaves and is told that rabbits don't live longer than five or six years - his repeated request for confirmation makes you assume that Daisy's rabbit must be somewhat older than that, or that the memory of her parents is somewhat... lacking. He continues to a highway rest shelter where he sees a woman (Cheryl Tiegs) sitting on her own, sipping a cup of coffee. He walks over to her and they begin to kiss, passionately, before he leaves again. Barely a word is spoken between them.

Stopping to get his bike checked on the way, he arrives in California and returns to the house he shared with Daisy, leaving her a note letting her know where he is staying. Daisy (Chloƫ Sevigny) turns up and the two talk about old times, argue, and then the infamous unsimulated fellatio scene appears. But does it?

Like I said, it's not terrible. It's a rambling melancholic memory-trip, bringing up emotions in Bud and with a great kick at the end that does probably save the film from being below-average. Gallo was pretty poor in his lead role, not really lending anything to the film that many other actors could have, and have in similar films in the past. Stumbling through without allowing any real glimpses into what is behind those eyes of his, he is saved by the naivety of Violet, the strength of despair in the woman at the rest stop, and the power of Sevigny's Daisy. Sevigny really is the saving grace of the film - she's a terrific actress, and brings to Daisy a sorrow and pain that manages to show you as much about Bud as it does about herself.

It's a 3 star film. Middling, really. Not terrible, not great. Just... there.

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