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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents
The Brown Bunny (2003)

"Is that Daisy's bunny?"
- Bud Clay (Vincent Gallo)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: August 17, 2005

Stars: Vincent Gallo, Chloe Sevigny
Other Stars: Anna Vareschi, Cheryl Tiegs, Elizabeth Blake, Mary Morasky
Director: Vincent Gallo

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (explicit sex, nudity)
Run Time: 01h:33m:05s
Release Date: August 16, 2005
UPC: 043396110656
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- C-AB+ D+

DVD Review

Most people became aware of writer/director Vincent Gallo's The Brown Bunny in May of 2003 when critic Roger Ebert walked out of a press screening at Cannes and proceeded to tell a television crew that it was "the worst film in the history of the festival." Strong words indeed, which prompted a public comeback volley from Gallo, including a curse on a certain part of Ebert's anatomy. This all led to more press about Gallo's film, which according to most reports was made up of two things: long scenes of nothing and Chloe Sevigny (Demonlover, Boys Don't Cry, Gummo) on her knees in a very graphic oral sex scene.

Gallo, who scored critical success with Buffalo '66, eventually took the mass of criticism heaped on The Brown Bunny to heart, went back in the editing room and lopped off about 26 minutes, conceivably tightening the narrative to what should have been a brisk 93 minutes, though after watching it, it seems that this could have been an hour-long film (or less) and still delivered its payload successfully. Sony has issued this recut version as part of their Superbit library, a very odd choice for a small indie with very little dialogue and an intentionally rough appearance, but in a way that only adds to the whole strange vibe that seems to pour off of this incredibly polarizing experience.

Bud Clay (Gallo) is a motorcycle racer who has loaded up his bike into a beat-up van and is heading from New Hampshire to California for a big race, as well as hopefully reuniting with his lost love, Daisy (Sevigny). Along his mostly silent journey—in which we mostly get to stare out of his bug-splattered windshield at the highway while songs like Gordon Lightfoot's Beautiful plays on the soundtrack—he encounters three women, all named for flowers, who for one reason or another briefly gravitate toward the brooding and somewhat serial-killerish demeanor of Clay, who has the personality of Travis Bickle's slow cousin. There's probably 15 minutes worth of dialogue in the first hour, with the rest of the time spent with the camera watching Clay drive or pump gas or get his motorcycle repaired.

And then there's the knowledge that Chloe Sevigny will eventually deliver that infamous sex scene, a slobbery and explicit moment that Gallo felt needed to be there in all of its unerotic glory. The exchange of dialogue between characters during this scene is fairly pivotal to the film's dramatic highpoint, though I question if we really needed to actually see Sevigny performing the act as Gallo insisted, and maybe the shock value of this scene is meant to bring forth something artistic that instead just seems awkwardly gratuitous.

The short version of The Brown Bunny—if you were to describe the full plot in detail rather than watch it—is, to Gallo's credit, deceptive in its impact, a story that seems to be about nothing only to eventually become about everything. The almost real-time experience of the way Gallo lets the story unfold, even in its edited form, is still agonizing slow, an intentionally calculated artistic approach that creates a high wall that only a certain percentage of the audience will want to scale, as if he is daring us to stay with Bud Clay's journey to the end.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This is admittedly a curious addition to Sony's Superbit catalog, but the 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer—with its intentionally grainy and sometimes out-of-focus feel in spots—is actually presented quite immaculately. Image detail, when Gallo's odd camera work allows, is rendered with surprising crispness, balanced by fleshtones that remain accurate under varying degrees of lighting. No trace of any compression issues to be found anywhere.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: As with most Superbit titles, The Brown Bunny carries a DTS track, in addition to a Dolby Digital 5.0 mix. But this is a film with so little dialogue or dramatic sound cues that it almost seems like overkill. The music beds, used during the long driving scenes, come off the most robust, with a very pleasing tone, while the remainder of the presentation is a front channel dominated track with sparse, but clear, dialogue and very little in the way of directional movement.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Staying true to the Superbit mantra, there are no extras here, save for a pair of very different trailers for The Brown Bunny. The first (:55s) is purposely vague, opening with an ominous critic quote, while the second (01m:58s) goes in the other direction and basically shows the entire film.

The film is cut into 28 chapters, with optional subtitles in English or French.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

I can only be thankful I didn't have to sit through the original two-hour version of Gallo's tedious journey known as The Brown Bunny. As the freshly edited 93-minute version, this is still a dreadfully slow experience full of long, silent passages of a man driving across country on his way to a particularly graphic sex scene that is one of the only reasons this film achieved any level of notoriety, aside from a very public feud with Roger Ebert.

The back cover refers to this as "one of the frankest portrayals of male sexuality ever seen in American cinema." Maybe I missed the arthouse boat on this one—and that's very possible—but even with a final act that gives this film a satisfying payoff, Gallo indulges in too much of nothing leading up to it.


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