Bow-Wow, Said the Bunny

Self-service without a smile

Eighty minutes of this (the movie is now a good 20 minutes shorter than the version screened at Cannes), and you're screaming for something to happen. It already has, after a fashion. Over the course of his journey, Bud picks up, toys with and drops three passively receptive women. The first, a dewy-eyed underage gas-station attendant named Violet, he invites to travel with him, then drives away while she's in her parents' house packing. At a rest area he approaches the lost soul Lilly (played by former supermodel Cheryl Tiegs with an air of faint surprise, as if she's wondering how she got here), makes out with her briefly, then abruptly takes off without saying a word. And in Las Vegas he cruises several blocks' worth of hookers before picking one up, buying her a hamburger, driving her around, then dumping her on the sidewalk. Bud is always the one in control, cupping the women's faces with his cadaver's hands, gazing into their eyes, then abandoning them without explanation. Hair-trigger feminists will likely jump all over this movie for its demeaning treatment of women. They will not be entirely wrong—it's impossible to imagine a Vincent Gallo movie without hatred of women rearing its ugly head, just as it's impossible to imagine him making a movie that is not, finally, all about himself and only tangentially about the women he dominates. Gallo is clearly trying to say something about the nature of male sexuality in all its unsavory glory, but unlike Buffalo 66, in which he had a saving sense of himself and those he deemed responsible for his misery as comic figures, he has no distance from the alter ego he's created. Auteurists will doubtless see this as an asset, but there's something smug and self-congratulatory, even self-righteous, about the insidiously soft-spoken Bud Clay that makes this movie unwittingly funny precisely when it reaches for tragedy. When Bud's lost love, Daisy (Sevigny), shows up at last in a Los Angeles motel, matters come to a head, as it were, in ways that wouldn't look amiss on a daytime soap, never mind your local porn channel. At this point someone I've never met leaned over and hissed in my ear, "So now we know that Vincent Gallo has a big dick." Actually, we know a little more than that. But not much.

The Brown Bunny was directed, written and produced by Vincent Gallo; and Stars Gallo, ChloŽ Sevigny and Cheryl Tiegs. Now playing at Edwards University, Irvine.

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