The Brown Bunny (Gallo, 2003)

I’m not sure where to settle my final thoughts on this one, because there are still one or two things that jump out at me as being problematic or unsuccessful. It seems to fit right in with what I see as the “quintessential” American story; the story of the road, and a search for meaning, truth and identity. I suppose in a way, that’s the journey of most cultures, and most stories, but I think it’s just because I’m having a difficult time articulating exactly what this journey entails. I think most cultures, and countries have these stories that are particularly relevant and thematically run through a large body of work. I’ve always seen the Canadian one as a matter of survival, and while I am not a huge fan of Atwood she makes a great case for it. On a much broader level, I think a lot of European cinema is a search for understanding, of the self, and the world around them. It’s often very passive, or enigmatic. English cinema, is seems to be a search for reason. I don’t know what I’m getting at, because these are broad and ultimately pointless understandings of cultures. It’s like stereotyping any nations by a few characteristics. But the road still seems very “American”, and the wanderer (or the Searcher), the “hero” or the figure that embodies it. The two genres I’d peg as being “American”, the western and more-so the Noir both take on this idea, creating a mythos of a lost, confused and sometimes aimless hero.

The character in the Brown Bunny is not aimless, though his journey is only apparent to himself for most of the film. Like Ethan in The Searchers, he seems to have a particular goal and he knows exactly what he’ll do, and what will happen. He’s not as controlling or misanthropic, but there is definitely that same confusion and outsider quality that qualifies him as a Searcher and an outcast. Even his apparent profession, as a motorbike driver sets him apart as someone who must always be moving, and cannot be fixed in a single place or life. He thinks he knows what he wants and what he’s looking for, but in the end, when he comes to that moment he’s been working towards, it turns out that it wasn’t what he was looking for, and it’s almost something he wish he never knew. At the same time, it’s something he inevitably had to confront in order to continue living, but there is little to suggest he is alive, outside of his memories and his travelling. I have slight problems with the conclusion and how it unfolds, too neatly, too conclusively… but still hauntingly. I’m not sure about the flashbacks, something about them doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the film, but that could just be their foreignness, and even swiftness comparatively.

The film is shot with very long takes, often with very little happening. It keeps up a pace and is sometimes invaded by bodies and faces that take on an ethereal and immediately intimate effect. It’s very much a mood piece, and that sense of melancholy and loss seems to pervade every shot, and every action.

The infamous blow-job scene is far from the exploitation I expected, and reveals both a personal response to pain and tragedy, with a wider cultural misunderstanding of addiction and sexuality. His rebuffing of Daisy is both understandable and terrifying, as one comes to realise the extent he allows his emotions cloud over him. It’s as if he’s suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome, and not only can he not really live knowing what happened he cannot live without her.

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