May 27, 2003
The Brown Bunny

Is everyone as excited about the prospect of seeing The Brown Bunny as I am?

As a fan of Buffalo 66, I can't believe Gallo's follow-up could be that bad. A graphic blow-job for an ending ain't exactly designed to please, but could it not be part of a larger statement being made, perhaps one only a few french critics were able to grasp?

Ok, so it doesn't bode well.

If it really does just suck, the people at Superbike sound like they'll be pissed.

Posted by at May 27, 2003 07:12 PM

What so no one's interested in The Brown Bunny? Shame on all of you!

Posted by: on May 31, 2003 12:43 AM .

Just how excited are you? I can't say I was so hot on Buffalo 66 (though Ben Gazzara looked like all vacant and shit, which was awesome, and between him and Gallo that movie had some of the better crisis of the masculine moments since he was in "Killing of a Chinese Bookie") but motorcycles are always hype and I guess blowjobs are okay. Gallo's clearly been jocking out on "On Any Sunday", which is understandable because that movie is out of control. Fucking Steve McQueen taking bails on motorcycles and FUCKING LAUGHING IT OFF. "Motocross is wicked fucked" is the thesis of "On Any Sunday". With a swamp boogie soundtrack. Shit's tight. Go see that before you start getting ants in your pants about this "Brown Bunny". If you haven't already seen it I mean. D'jyer see "Trouble Every Day"? I didn't but I really wanted to and now I can't find it for rent.

Posted by: TheDiscourse on June 1, 2003 07:20 PM .

I read a Vincent Gallo quote a couple of weeks ago, referring to the blowjob scene, that began, "When I first thought of the idea for that scene..."

When he what? When he thought of the idea of Chloe Sevigny giving him a blowjob? There are probably several hundred thousand other guys out there who "thought of" the idea for that scene before he did...

Posted by: tv on June 2, 2003 01:20 PM .

Yeah every time I see Gazzara in anything I unconsciously compare him to earlier performances in Bookie, Opening Night or Husbands and end up depressed. Cassavetes got him doing stuff in such a startling way it's disappointing it doesn't happen anymore. But I still loved that movie. A film that begins with a guy who gets out of jail, has to pee badly, finally gets to a urinal... then can't. I ask you, who would go through the effort to make a film that started like this? And it managed a happy ending to boot! (Only a true poet could manage this...)

"When I thought of the idea for that scene" tv, is so funny an observation I hate to follow it with anything but... It's like his film's been fucked because he wrote and starred in it, and 'his character' gets head in it too. This gives new meaning to the word that dogged Cassavetes throughout his career - "self indulgent". Critics say "graphic blow job" with ten times the amount of bile they do the worst kind of violence. I have to wonder about what's going on in people's heads when they do this. It's like oral sex can only be the sucky-sucky fucky-fucky crap they've lumped it in with, and it can bare no resemblance to any of the very beautiful sexual experiences there are to be had out there. I'm not just being perverse - it seems safe to say there are people on motorbikes in the USA who fantasize about getting head, and like the loser in Buffalo 66 - the 40 year old virgin loser - I don't think these people are somehow too pitiful to be represented.

And what about blow jobs, anyway? Philip Roth writes (in 'The Dying Animal') about how the mouth has become the orifice of choice, due to the horror of AIDS, and what he terms 'the untold story of the rise and fall of the condom in the twentieth century'. He theorizes baby-boomers gave rise to the most prodigious generation of cock-suckers in human history. And though he's kidding around the whole time, the book does paint a picture of the way human sexuality's evolving that's hard to argue with.

I haven't seen anything else of Gallo's, but what I know about The Brown Bunny makes it sound considered, poetic, and pretty funny, (like his last one): It begins with a race that Gallo wins. From that point on he's either riding (in silence), brushing his teeth (in silence), running off on girls who are becoming interested in him, or fantasizing about his girlfriend giving him the blow job he finally rides across country to receive (another happy ending!).

Seriously, I think it's one of the more mischievous movie plot-synopsisisisis I've come across, and the fact critics are shitting on it makes me more certain it'll be at least good. After all, look at what those heartless pricks went and did to poor Pootie.

They obviously know not of what they speak.

Posted by: on June 3, 2003 05:59 PM .

Oh, and I forgot to mention here, I haven't seen On Any Sunday and perhaps will soon.

I also meant to say that everyone should go here to read about how great a film Bookie really was. And that seriously, Discourse-- secret sources told me (at least I think they did) you're studying film, and I wish someone had told me about the writing of Ray Carney sometime before I'd finished filmschool, though perhaps you've already discovered it, or read it and found it boring. If you found it boring, don't tell me about it, please - my head might implode.

Posted by: on June 3, 2003 06:58 PM .

The debate heats up over at Sankey Central.

Posted by: on June 5, 2003 03:33 PM .

Right, so I'm three pages behind on what has turned into a totally bizarre multifront investigation into the importance of film criticism, crises in contemporary masculinity and the psychosexual/cultural implications of the mouth, all fittingly provoked by a film with motorcycles and a blowjob, which none of the commentators (ahem) have seen. Right now I'm not feeling up to wading through the heated business on d/blog, but I will, and I don't think I'll ever be patient enough to give Ebert's 'criticism' the benefit of the doubt. But, three things:
1. Ray Carney is pretty great. Before reading that Bookie essay, I was only familiar with him as a foil to formal and critical analytic film theory (the "to what end" argument also seen in that Bookie thing). I'm uneasy about that stuff; I do on some level find contemporary (ie post-68) film theory engaging and worthwhile, but after reading Commolli or Christian Metz I never ever really get excited about film in a concrete or practical way- the approach is obviously abstract (not to mention occasionally impenetrable) and as a result it isn't especially useful except in relation to other theory. So guys like Carney and Jonathan Rosenbaum (more so the latter I think) are often really refreshing because they can provoke a compulsive enthusiasm about films you've already seen or prompt you to literally rush out the door to the videostore in search of something you haven't seen. Which is fucking great AND practical. I think it's important to differentiate between theory and criticism and the hack domain of film review. Jonathan Rosenbaum is exciting because he manages to temper the first two which often results in something entirely readable and impassioned but still bolstered by the more exciting tenets of formal analysis. Carney seems exciting because he's argumentative and there seems to be a fearlessness about making value judgements and indulging in holistic, overarching explorations of films and drawing more versatile conclusions (like that masculinity-on-the-brink stuff), well-supported or not. My only beef is with his wholesale dismissal of formal analysis- not so much the sentiment, which is perfectly reasonable, but rather the reductive appraisal of analysis as too cerebral and sterile, the somewhat hamfisted deployment of quotation marks, and offering a jazz-music analogy as an alternative. Whether you're into any cultural theory or not, terms like "truth-telling device" are pretty dicey. But I suppose that thing is only an exerpt and even though I don't entirely agree with that stuff, I really really like Carney's willingness to shoot his mouth off.
2. Roger Ebert is a film reviewer, not a critic. He's really good at writing film reviews and while he usually treats movies as face-value, sum-of-their-parts entertainments, he clearly knows a whole lot about film and genuinely cares about film even more, to the point where he'll get involved in archival projects and exploit his popularity to champion stuff that wouldn't get the exposure it warrants. But, I don't give a shit about what he has to say about a movie like Brown Bunny. His comments shouldn't, and obviously won't, hold any weight for anyone who's at all curious about this film because he's not writing for them. After having Gummo shat upon by every single popular film reviewer in North America, including Ebert, Harmony Korine (I know it's sort of lame to trot him out here but it's poingant) said " I don't give a shit. Why should I care what some reviewer thinks of my movie if they probably raved about the last Julia Roberts movie?"
I don't think that's as snotty as it sounds because it isn't necessarily a slight against Julia Roberts movies, it just addresses the fact that popular film review doesn't have any bearing on filmmakers like Korine or Gallo because their potential audiences are bounded from the outset. Both of them make films in commercial contexts but they're both afforded lots of room to alienate Roger Ebert and his readers.
3. Okay, sloppy generalizations and oblique elitism aside, there was a short piece about Brown Bunny in Les Inrockuptibles, which is a fucking hot magazine if you can speak french.
Here's a pedestrian translation effort:

Vincent Gallo, after years of intensive narcissim , has taken his exhibitionist persona to its logical extreme. With an honesty and coherence that's nothing short of exemplary, Gallo fixes the camera to his body throughout Brown Bunny, right up until the ultimate fellatio sequence that so shocked and appalled the Cannes audience. After the final scene, audience members were left to their conjecturing: was the framing contrived to be extremely flattering or was a hyper real prosthesis employed? Either way, the problem is the same- Gallo is so in love with his own body that his onscreen dick has to be majestic. Whether it's real or just a conceit of world class pathological self-love, the only consistency is that it is entirely proportionate to Gallo's ego.

Now that's garbage film writing.

Oh and I saw Irreversible this week and I'm calling total bullshit on it being fucking 'moving'. Bullshit. BULLSHIT. Structurally exploitative (the wholesale theft of Laura Mulvey's elimination of pleasure camera swinging), ironic causal inversion employed ONLY to make the audience maximally upset and to be heavy-handed about the frothy-mouthed morality the film hits you about the head with, That said, it was pretty impressive and affecting but NOT moving. Impressive because the first 40 minutes are so disorienting, assaultive, and upsetting that such a level of sustained abjection and hate can't be called anything else. Affecting because a exhaustingly visceral response is the only kind the film potentiates.
Not 'moving' because any emotional appeal within the later narrative is negated by the excessively contrived and self-conscious lengths Gaspar No has taken to hurt your feelings during the initial half of the film.

The tie-in with all the Brown Bunny/Ray Carney stuff is that I saw the movie with a bunch of filmschool chatty cathy's and when we left the theatre I had to kind of brace myself to get my bearings back and just sort of stare at the ground for a few minutes but They, they IMMEDIATELY started yapping about fucking Deleuze without seeming at all fazed by what they'd just seen. So Carney's charicature of film theory types as clinical and entirely cerebral rang very true for a few minutes.

Posted by: TheDiscourse on June 6, 2003 07:32 PM .

All right, this is great, Discourse, I've loved reading it (three times now) and I especially love the ending - it kills me. I'm glad you picked up on a contrived self-consciousness in Gaspar Noe's sensibility, and took Mutante to task for it. (The reason I doubted the movie would improve and didn't mind the idea of walking out had everything to do with what you describe.) Mutante told me afterward that Noe is just like that lead character - he believes if someone does something to you, you should go out and avenge it yourself, not go to the law or anyone else for help. Which in my books makes him only the tiniest little bit cooler than I initially thought, which wasn't too cool.

About "critics", "theorists", and "reviewers"-- you said it G!

As for Carney, I have all kinds of problems with him. He's influenced my thinking, but there are tons of movies he loves that I don't care for, just as there are techniques he resents immensely which I don't remotely mind. In general, I like the guy because he's writes well about filmmakers I dig.

That french mag does sound 'hot', and I wish I could read it...

On a related note, as everyone knows, when you have a huge dong and you're an entertainer, you're to flaunt it around only privately, behind the scenes, so you can thrive on the undertones of your appearances in public. It's an integral element of being a movie star, and it's to remain an implicit aspect of your mystique, ala Warren Beatty/David Douchovney/Jason Priestly/Ewan McGregor and whoever else the little fag in me might be leaving out. You're certainly not to go disturbing audiences by pulling Tommy Lee out of your trousers and planting it in the mouth of your co-star while on screen, thus turning her from respected actress to porn-star. I say this not to be crass - there's something considered to Gallo's decision to put his balls in the chopping block this way, I'm sure. The infamous (supposed) taboo-smashing of Boogie Nights was all the rage because (for the 1st time since Meyer?) in mainstream film, a big fat soft fake plastic cock appeared and got everybody tittering away on ineffable tangents.

Excerpt from highschool conversation with brilliant friend:

K: You know, they say there's nothing more uncomfortable for either sex to see on a movie screen than a flaccid penis.
Me: Really? For either sex?
Eavesdropping lady: Thanks for that, I'm trying to eat my soup over here.
K: I'm sorry.
Eavesdropping lady: (insincerely) No really, thanks.

Maybe flaccid dick isn't too uncomfortable if it's a foot long, or at least, that's the idea Meyer and Anderson have experimented with.

The difference with Gallo is, it's real, and it's hard.

Susan Bordo's The Male Body comes to mind thinking about the massive bad-reaction Gallo's film garnered. Her reading, which draws together an array of things from all over the place: the undertones of the OJ Simpson murder trial and Clinton scandals, Travolta's incessant fear of going buck (as he was contracted to), PT Anderson's sexual politics, the genius of Mappelthorpe, all the way back to Bogart, Brando, Dean, and Dylan, (this is from memory and I read it in whatever year it came out, so you know...), struck me as refreshingly smart. My recollection is that her argument was obvious: men have historically been the objectifiers, and a change is slowly starting to take place as women move up in the world. In spite of its obviousness, I recall the book managed to sound brave and new. At some point in there she tells a story about these women in the 60s who worked for the Barbie franchise and took notes in the boardrooms while the men discussed what kind of changes should take place. The changes: well, it's 1965 now, see, so the dress should go higher, the boobs should be bigger, the waist narrower, the legs longer, yada yada on and on, all this with little regard for the feelings of the ladies in their midst. (Why should they have any regard for the ladies when let's face it, all ladies are basically gay anyway [c'mon, I'm right, admit it, you are!]). At some point, when asked for female input, one of the secretaries piped up, "Well, maybe we should give Ken a bigger bulge?" And this floored, flustered and stunned the whole boardroom: "What kind of gay-ass logic is that?" "What's wrong with Ken's bulge - it's perfectly respectable! (isn't it?)" "Besides-- who the hell cares about Ken's bulge?!... Women are more interested in jealously appraising one another's boobs (aren't they?)" And yet were the women not implying otherwise?... "And besides, we're talking about a product for little girls here!" - particularly funny in light of the fact Barbie was much closer to their sexual fantasy than the toy of any self-respecting child.

The secretaries were unable to suppress their laughter- dumb-struck by how revealing the male reactions were to the very type of behaviour they exhibited endlessly, year-round in front of these women. There was a bit of: See how you like it?

Then they had some Ken dolls drawn up. One with a massive lump, one medium-sized, and one - just the way it was in the first place (which certainly wasn't *the horror* small "[was it?]"). After a very brief blush-heavy discussion on the subject, the men concluded they'd go with medium sized Ken, and moved a.s.a.p. back to what they were comfortable with: Barbie's tits and ass.

So in a sense the ladies won.

I don't know why this story comes to mind when I imagine critics having to look at Gallo's dong. It occurs to me critics (of all people) would rather be dismissive than talk about some privately held feeling a movie stirs in them. It's difficult to know how I'll feel watching Brown Bunny. Gallo could be doing all this just to let the world know he's in the 15 inch club, but I'm stuck on thinking (because I liked his poetry so much) he's thought it through, and everyone else will catch up in time.

Once, stoned out of my gourd in Amsterdam - the most progressive place in the world - I saw a magazine with an article titled "Is Your Penis Too Large? A Huge Problem No One's Talking About." I didn't think to buy it at the time, nor did I take it upon myself to lift it off the shelf. Which is too bad, cause I wonder what that was all about.

Hey-- I'm just trying to spice up your lives, people!!

Posted by: on June 11, 2003 10:04 PM .
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