“Bud Clay, a budding motorcycle racer [Vincent Gallo] gets a realer than realistic onscreen blowjob from the beautiful Daisy Lemon [Chloe Sevigny].”
That is basically what every other critic had said about this film. That was also partially why instead of rushing to view the film on opening night, as I usually do, I waited the few months it took for the DVD release.
Vincent Gallo, who wrote, directed, produced, starred in, shot, and gaffed the film, is one of my favorite weirdo directors. Ever since I realized that it is impossible to watch Buffalo ’66 (1998) too many times I have been in awe of his creative genius. The Brown Bunny, though, is a film you should watch only once (if even that much), and as such I decided I would help him out a bit by embellishing [designated by italics] during my review of this, his totally irksome, sophomore effort.
The Brown Bunny opens with Bud in the middle of a motorcycle race. Though he is traveling at over a hundred miles per hour, the static camera that follows him around by panning, makes everything seem to be moving nauseatingly slowly. At the end, the race doesn’t seem to do much by way of perking Bud’s melancholy attitude.
Bud, in his awkward, yet almost antagonizing kind of way—a perfect character for Gallo—seeks tender salvation from the heartache caused by his teen lover, Daisy Lemon.
There are three women in the film, besides the Lemons, that Bud has wanton interactions with during his road trip from an undetermined starting point to Los Angeles, California. They are all at odds with their sexuality, and Bud exploits that insecurity to his advantage.
The first woman, Violet (Anna Vareschi), he meets at the gas station convenience store after the opening speed bike race. She is old enough to work, but posses the maturity of a twelve year old. When Bud begs her to “Please. Please. Please go with…” him cross country to California, she closes the store and leaves her aunt and uncle a note explaining her spontaneous flight.
The second woman is much older, but is deeply saddened about something in her life. That something that is weighing down on Lilly (Cheryl Tiegs) may have been current, or lay somewhere in the past. We don’t really get a chance to discover what it is as Bud shares a mostly clairvoyant conversation with her before they engage in open mouthed kisses and bouts of blubbering.
Lastly is a nubile street urchin named Rose (Elizabeth Blake). Bud picks her up after turning down two prior prostitutes with weathered appearances only blocks before. At first Rose appears tough when she just doesn’t simply fold to Bud’s offer of a free lunch. But her sinewy exterior dissolves into nothingness when after a few minutes, and a scene change, we witness her in the passenger seat of Bud’s van, wind in her hair, taking long gulps from a Biggie-sized Mc Donald’s cup.
These three women have more than one thing in common, and the audience is left to ponder what exactly it is that Gallo is trying to communicate.
They all yearn for something that is not apparent on the surface, something only Bud can perceive due to his perpetual state of languish. They are all, like Bud, loners; perfect prey for a pedophile (excluding Lilly), a deranged serial killer, or an emotionally disturbed chauvinist. And through something more than coincidence, they all put their names out in public domain. Violet and Rose on necklaces, and Lilly, emblazoned across her pocketbook.
In the end, whatever it was that drew Bud to these women initially, is not enough to make him stay, as he ditches each without much lament and continues his trip in deep contemplation about his upcoming reunion with Daisy.
These women are separated by states, a lot of freeway, and poorly shot close-ups of Bud that I guess Gallo intended to use to draw the audience closer to his character.
The directorial style works at times. Throughout the film, especially during the Chinese restaurant scene, the prostitute interactions on the strip, and the conversations with Mrs. Lemon, you get the feeling that you are privy to someone’s personal video diary. In these scenes, Gallo and the other characters act out their roles while the unscripted extras carry on daily life, apparently oblivious to the fact that they are being recorded.
Bud cries a lot on the road, makes a stop for a spin on the salt flats, and visits a basement pet store in search of a brown bunny, apparently a gift to replace the brown bunny Mrs. Lemon told Bud that Daisy had left behind. He also has a few recollections, of happier times spent with Daisy, that cause even more tears.
By the time Bud gets to Los Angeles and stops at a mechanic for diagnostics on his bike, I want the film to be over.
It is when Gallo acts out like this that I understand why critics exclude him from the Harmony Korine, Gus Van Sant, Asia Argento trifecta of young and talented actors/directors. They are the accepted bad boys (and girl) of cinema, while he is the sociopathic Alexander de Large, that everyone, it seems, wishes would just go away.
Once in Los Angeles, Bud decides to check in on Daisy at her dilapidated ranch-style home. He bangs on the door and yells her name repeatedly. Off screen, a neighbor shouts his disapproval, which makes Bud realize that his actions might seem absurd to the uniformed onlooker and he resorts to simply leaving a note.
Back at the motel, Bud is nervously anticipating Daisy’s arrival. During the whole trip you get the feeling that there is something about Daisy that will be revealed once she walks through the motel door, so you too wait in nervous anticipation.
To calm himself, Bud goes over to the vanity and washes his face. In the brief moment when the tap is running and Bud’s back is to the door, Daisy enters the room unheard.
She faces a lot of questions from Bud, which she cannot cope with straight, and it takes two discreet hits crack for her to warm up to him.
There is a lot of sexual tension, tension that exists outside of the scene itself. It is already more than three quarters way into the film so I know that this must be the much talked about blow-job scene.
Daisy looks alluring and skanky, in the way only a crack head can. She curtails Bud’s incessant questioning and overpowers him with her sexual advances.
Bud, still standing, writhes in pleasure as Daisy fluffs his cock with her hands and mouth through two layers of clothing. He runs his hands through Daisy’s hair, gripping clumps firmly at times, but not too much so.
Daisy unbuckles Bud’s belt and pants and gently sticks her hand inside his baby blue briefs, grabbing hold of his still unseen erect penis. As the camera closes in, and Daisy is about to reveal Bud’s member, he closes his eyes to take a mental snapshot of the moment.
Not even creative masturbation on the director’s part, or gratuitous fellating of Bud’s bruised ego can save the film at this point. The only favorable recourse is for the film to delve into a whimsical romp; and Vincent Gallo, being the brilliant director that he is, grants his audience exactly that.
When Bud reopens his eyes he realizes in horror that Daisy has been replaced with a human-sized brown bunny, and that his cock is now a ten-inch long carrot. Bud grabs his carrot and tries to extricate it from the bunny’s mouth.
A small battle ensues, with Bud fighting hard not to succumb to the bunny’s powers as it repeatedly bobs and wobbles its head, all the while saying words that are garbled by a mouth full of carrot.
Two minutes into the battle it is uncertain whether Bud is really trying to pull his carrot from the bunny’s oral grasp, or jam it far down its throat so as to choke it. Whatever his actions it doesn’t appear as if the bunny is phased, as it just keeps on slurping at the carrot, obviously trying to get to some indistinct goal.
Before long Bud uses his smarts to outwit the bunny. He makes deep throated, pornographic sounds that distract the bunny just long enough for him to carefully slide out his carrot, avoiding those long, sharp bunny teeth. On doing so a flash of light emanates from his carrot and it magically reverts to his cock again. With another luminous burst, the bunny morphs back into Daisy. Confused, Bud shoves his erect penis into his pants and buckles it with the head still peeking above the waistline.
This is an example of pure brilliance in screenplay writing and directing.
There is a perplexing twist further toward the end of the film which would be unfair for me to reveal, but I can safely say that it will confuse you even more than the incident with the aforementioned brown bunny.
Unlike Billy and Layla in 1997’s Buffalo ’66, which ended in a motel room similar to one depicted in The Brown Bunny, Bud and Daisy do not live happily ever after.
The Brown Bunny (2003)
Dir. Vincent Gallo
Stars: Vincent Gallo, Chloe Sevigny
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