All That for a Blowjob? 

Vincent Gallo's The Brown Bunny Kind of Sucks


The Brown Bunny
dir. Gallo
Opens Fri Oct 8
Cinema 21

There are many kinds of blowjobs--masterful, merciful, hostile, desperate, obsequious, loving, et al. --and even the worst of them is pretty good. The one featured in Vincent Gallo's The Brown Bunny is the most troubling kind, especially when you consider that the film doesn't truly begin until the already notorious onscreen fellatio occurs, only to end about five minutes after it has finished.

As a scene, the blowjob isn't shocking, but it is difficult to watch--and not simply because of the intimacy on display, or the weirdly disjunctive familiarity of the actors (the famous Chloë Sevigny and her semi-famous then-boyfriend Gallo). No, the scene is troubling for all the right reasons; the sex is, as they say in interviews, integral to the plot. Its tone is heavy, mournful, and revealing. And when it really gets going, the emotions it brings out in Gallo's character--an otherwise inert motorcycle racer named Bud Clay--are apocalyptically male and terrifyingly specific, leading to a post-coital relationship examination that instantly reconfigures--and almost transfigures--the entire film that precedes it. Unfortunately, it comes (so to speak) after far too many scenes in which absolutely nothing happens.

To be fair, advance press has made it almost impossible to watch The Brown Bunny without anticipating the oral sex. It's a poisonous spoiler, because it forces you to pre-translate everything you see into a single context. Throughout the film, there's no way to avoid watching Bud's actions and wondering how the blowjob is going to explain them. The thing is: The blowjob does explain his constant reticence; it does contextualize his sometimes-incomprehensible actions; it does redeem the movie. It simply waits too long to do it.

Clearly, Bud Clay is haunted by memory, and clearly Gallo is committed to demonstrating that condition with empathy. But where his previous film, Buffalo 66, practically melted with its lead character's bitter tenderness, drawing you ever closer with his outré behavior, Bunny's emotional landscape is almost entirely internal. It's not that you don't feel for the guy, but his silence is so engulfing that you just want to leave him alone. And you certainly don't want to spend 90 minutes watching him drive, shower, brood, and weep, which is almost all this movie is.

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