The Brown Bunny (2003) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

This film is quite famous, albeit for three things somewhat unrelated to the appeal of the project.

  1. Chloe Sevigny fellated director/star Vincent Gallo on camera in real time.

  2. Gallo promoted the film with a gigantic billboard overlooking Sunset Boulevard, featuring what Gallo envisioned to be a non-objectionable version of the blow job scene.

  3. The film caused a major feud between critic Roger Ebert and Gallo.



After a 118 minute version of the film was roundly booed at Cannes, Mr. Ebert told a TV crew outside the theater that The Brown Bunny was: "The worst film in the history of the festival. I have not seen every film in the history of the festival, yet I feel my judgment will stand."

With the wit and grace of Oscar Wilde, Mr. Gallo responded: "If a fat pig like Roger Ebert doesn't like my movie, then I'm sorry for him."

"It is true that I am fat," Ebert rejoined, "but one day I shall be thin, and he will still be the director of The Brown Bunny."

Responding to Ebert's oblique reference to a noted example of Churchillian wit, Gallo fired back a Shavian bon mot of his own: 'Oh yeah, well you tell that bastard I curse his prostate and I hope it blows up to the size of a cantaloupe.'

This turned out to be a particularly unfortunate comment, because Mr. Ebert was soon diagnosed with colon cancer, but Roger took it in stride and joked, "I am not too worried. I had a colonoscopy once, and they let me watch it on TV. It was more entertaining than The Brown Bunny."

If you missed it all, you can catch up on the whole feud here

The story has sort of a happy ending, I suppose. Gallo recut the film to 92 minutes for its theatrical release and Ebert awarded three stars to the revised version, while praising Gallo for recognizing that much of his footage needed excising.



Here is the famous billboard. If you click on it you can see a much larger version.

Given today's moral climate, many passing motorists seemed to find it objectionable, and the "powers that be" soon took it down, much to Gallo's chagrin.

"I'm extremely disappointed. I just wanted to make what I thought would be the most beautiful billboard in the world.  I used very extreme, bold composition and font and imagery because I felt that it related to the aesthetic sensibility of the film. Unfortunately, the billboard was reduced to something that it really wasn't."


Well, what is there to say? Vince takes out a good size wang, keeps it constantly hard as if he were an experienced porno trouper, and Chloe gobbles it. The money shot is in her mouth, so we can't tell if that is simulated, but the rest of it is obviously very real with everything shown on camera in real time.




Ah, yes. The film.

It's existential cinema verité, European minimalist style, (deliberately) close to a home movie in style. It could easily be a Bruno Dumont film. Vince rides from New Hampshire to California, haunted by the grief of a painful betrayal and his loss of the betrayer. As he viewed it, his beloved Daisy had turned out to be no truer to his mental picture of her than had Jay Gatsby's famous Daisy.

Along the way he rides a motorcycle at the Bonneville Salt Flats, stops in a pet shop to ask about the life-span of bunnies, stops and talks to some hookers and convenience store clerks, stops and provides wordless consolation to a kindred spirit (former supermodel Cheryl Tiegs, once one of the most famous women in the world, now making her acting debut at age 56). Mostly he just drives, while the camera watches traffic through his front window. Lots of traffic. There's highway traffic, small-town New England traffic, Las Vegas traffic, interstate highway traffic, wet traffic in the rain, dry traffic in the desert. Anonymous cars. Anonymous people. The film must be about 50% "windshield cam". Sometimes, for a real change of pace, there are no cars; just an open road.  Ah, but would not the true existentialist counter that the absence of cars is just another form of traffic, just as a musical rest is another tool of musical composition?  Occasionally the camera switches to close-ups of Vince's pained face, but then we get right back to traffic again. Even when the camera is on Vince's face as he drives, we can see traffic in the background. Even if we can't actually see it, we can sense its presence.

It's the Citizen Kane of traffic films.

Luckily the stretches of filmed traffic are exactly long enough for the kind of background songs in which singer-songwriters wail their mournful phrases about lost happiness, while strumming eerie, hollow acoustic guitar chords.

I'll bet it's been a while since you heard Gordon Lightfoot.

In fact, the last time you heard Lightfoot, other people were actually making films like this, films which tried to strip away the conventions of mainstream commercial filmmaking and just show something genuine, with the camera apparently recording real life in real time. My guess is that every single student film at NYU in 1973 resembled this film. In some ways, this is the classic late-60s-early-70s contemplative road movie about a search for some peace of mind, some quiet for a troubled soul inside a soul-destroying world. There's lots of regret, sadness, grief, and thoughts about roads not taken. You will see at the end that the action does not drift aimlessly. In fact, if you really pay attention, the ending of the film will clarify what has gone before, and even show you why the hotel room scene and the BJ seemed to be told from a subjective POV, in contrast to the stark objective realism of many other scenes.

Is there catharsis? Resolution? Does Vince's character find the peace he seeks?


"He's a destroyed soul, he will continue to act out until he peters out and dies. There's no epiphany, no catharsis, no awakening." - Vincent Gallo, speaking of his character Bud Clay in The Brown Bunny

Unless you enjoy "the art of the moment" - the capture of and lingering indulgence in a mood in a moment of time, this is not the movie for you. To call its pace slow would be tantamount to calling tectonic shifts slow. If you reduce the story to essential narrative, devoid of atmosphere and mood, it would be less than 30 minutes long. If necessary, it could easily be cut back to a 30 minute episode for The Hitchhiker. And even at that length it would not be particularly satisfying. Or particularly economical!

Gallo is a unique filmmaker. He's the classic auteur pouring his passion out from his soul. He does not travel with an entourage or employ much of a crew. His ending credits, excluding the mandatory music credits, must be about the shortest in history. He might have just substituted "it's all me." Nothing wrong with that really. People have interpreted that as narcissism and egomania, but I don't buy that interpretation. It's just a guy producing and directing his own personal movies the way he wants to make them and controlling every aspect, including cinematography and editing. Don't writers do that? Gallo is simply doing with his film what Dostoyevsky did with the printed page - crying out in personal anguish, and making every word and comma his own.

Is the film worth watching?

Well, Gallo's film has many defenders among those who enjoy a certain type of alternative minimalist filmmaking. The critical scores were not bad overall (43% at RT, 49 at Metacritic), although the mediocre overall score does not accurate reflect the love-hate polarization of the critiques. Some find it unwatchable, some find it offensive, others call it a masterpiece.

Do not count me in that latter group.

I didn't enjoy The Brown Bunny. Yes, there is some emotional payoff in the last five minutes of the film, but I just can't imagine that more than 1% of you could ever make it that far. The first 70% of the film is so slow and so tedious that you'll give up unless you just have to see that blowjob.

Oh, yeah, the title. Well, if I get where he's going, the brown bunny he sees in the pet shop is something that looks beautiful and sweet but has a very short life-span. Like love. I suppose that the anticipated death of the bunny foreshadows not only the end of love after a short time, but also the end of Daisy after a short life.



  • No features except the original theatrical trailers
  • The transfer is anamorphically enhanced. The aspect ratio is an odd 1.66


Chloe Sevigny shows her breast in the notorious BJ scene, and then again in a drugged-out sex scene. The latter also includes a brief look at her lower body, but nothing much can be seen.

Gallo's man-stick is, of course, the featured subject of the infamous BJ scene.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus out of four stars: two stars. James Berardinelli 1.5/4, Roger Ebert 3/4.

  • It was nominated for some film festival awards, and won one prize at Vienna, "for its bold exploration of yearning and grief and for its radical departure from dominant tendencies in current American filmmaking."

The People Vote ...

Miscellaneous ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C-. Made for a small and highly targeted audience, it's a film that has no crossover appeal to mainstream audiences. Its lack of appeal to conservative Middle America involves style as much as content. Even without the sex scenes, the resulting PG-13 film would still be too slow and boring for the typical filmgoer. 

  • 99.9% of you will find it consistently boring and almost totally lacking in forward movement.
  • Turtlenecked fans of cinema verité may appreciate some of its artful moments.
  • Fans of traffic, however, will love it.

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