As has been reported in several places today (but I'll give credit to IndieWire), Vincent Gallo's roundly trounced The Brown Bunny has been picked-up for distribution in NY and LA by Wellspring Media. The movie caused a war of words (to put it politely) between critic Roger Ebert and Gallo, and it basically has a built in audience of curiosity-seekers who simply won't believe that Chloe Sevigny actually gave a blow-job to Gallo onscreen until they see it for themselves in the film. (At least, that's the excuse I'm going with.)
The only reason I bring this up is because I was devastated today to learn that another blogger whose opinion I respect greatly, and will readily say is much more of a Filmbrain than I, especially in the realm of foreign cinema, is a fan of Gallo's last directing effort, Buffalo '66.
Sorry Filmbrain. I'm calling you out. What you describe as a "breath of fresh air" was a stale pile of shit. There was nothing fresh about B66 other than it being different for difference sake, and that does not a good movie make, although many people who like anything non-Hollywood seem to think so. The only element of the movie that interested me at all was the finale in the bar, one of the first times I had seen the 306-degree-freeze technique. OK, that was slightly cool, but I was so dead inside from how annoying the rest of the movie was, I couldn't even appreciate that. Near-death boredom and overly self-indulgent filmmaking (and I know you have a problem with Tarantino; Tarantino can't hold a candle to Gallo in doing things that may make no sense but he deems them important ... simply because he says) is never the same fresh air. There's no compromise on this subject with me, I'm sorry to say. I give you points for making a very valiant attempt at stating specific elements of the film you liked, but to me, they still added up to a whole bunch of blech. I expect nothing better from The Brown Bunny. Oh, I'll still go see the damn thing and probably cry for years after about those two hours of my 30s ripped out of me, but I have this opinion problem, you see ... I must have one, otherwise I go nuts. So I'll go. Maybe we should go together and then we can rumble on Houston in front of the Landmark.
I won't touch Henry Fool, a far superior movie in every way. If I was Hal Hartley, I'd want to hunt you down for even putting my film in the same sentence, equating the quality of the two as in any way similar. Making B66 even worse is that I too love Christina Ricci, but I walked out of the screening at New Directors/New Films however many years ago wanting to bash my head into the column that I wish had obstructed my view of the screen even more.
You want to see a breath of fresh hair, find a way to see the Tribeca Film Festival award winner The Green Hat, which unfortunately I believe you missed. Now that's a new and invigorating film that the indie crowd should love and will hopefully get distribution and noticed.
Hmmmm.....wow -- really on the spot here! (I relish a good challenge!)
Knowing what I know about Gallo, there's quite a lot about B66 that is autobiographical. Obviously not everything, but the neighborhood, the house, the actual recording of his father (which Ben G. lip-syncs to) and probably a lot of the insecurity is fairly genuine. (Gallo has said some pretty nasty things about his parents as well.)
The a certain level of absurdity to the film. Billy Brown has just basically kidnapped a woman, and the threat he makes if she should spoil his plan is that he will NEVER EVER talk to her again. EVER. It's that level of pathetic-ness that attracted me to the film. I laughed through most of it -- the fight at the dinner table with his parents, the scene in the photo booth -- something about it won me over. (Did you not find Kevin Corrigan hysterical?)
[I've just thrown the DVD in.] The dinner scene is at once both really funny and painfully uncomfortable. Gazarra is in top form. (Come on - he strangles a puppy! That plus the "Daddy loves you" thing is horrifying.) Watch that scene again and tell me if you feel the same way.
Plus, I really think he makes good use of the Ozu-like 360 degree space thing.
As I mentioned on my site, those that know and love me really question my integrity (and sanity) when it comes to this film. But then again, it seems I always like Gallo -- he's been in several films I really enjoy (Arizona Dream, US Go Home, Palookavile, Nenette et Boni, The Funeral, Trouble Every Day) and I think his performances in all of them are really interesting. I can't think of another actor I would hate as much in person, but love on the screen.
And you're right about Henry Fool -- but I saw the two films one night apart, and both made me feel that there was still some hope in the indie world.
But I agree we should def. check out Brown Bunny together, and hash it out afterwards. It will the NYC blog event of the year. (Right.)
Posted by: FIlmbrain | Friday, May 21, 2004 at 10:06 PM
Somw time ago I was working for this film licensing agent aand I had to take home a bunch of screeners to watch and review. There was a Gallo film among them which was his version of Taxi Driver...seriously. Just awful. I had a copy of Full Moon's Castle Freak along with it and even that Romanian crapfest was heads above Gallo's crappus. Somebody make whoever it is that gives the man money to make films stop. It's just not fair to the not even marginally talented folk like the guy from American Movie.
Posted by: MercuryX23 | Sunday, May 23, 2004 at 02:26 PM
I think you're the person who needs help, MercuryX23. Do you need a basic lesson in reading film credits?
That film you mention was not directed by Gallo and it was not "his version of Taxi Driver." It was FREEWAY 2: CONFESSIONS OF A TRICK BABY and yes, it was a horrible film, sequel to FREEWAY. Both were written and directed by Matthew Bright, and the first was considered by some to be a passable attempt at neo-noir.
Before you try to pass yourself off as an expert, you should put the minimal effort into geting your facts straight. It's called IMDB. Check it before you post.
Anyone who doesn't like BUFFALO '66 is of course entitled to their own opinion. However few who dislike the film ever have any comment beyond "boring" or "stale pile of shit" or other similar witless rhetoric. Most worthless is the comment that Gallo is a "self-indulgent" filmmaker. So was Orson Welles. So has been almost any artist of talent or genius.
When these penny-ante critics say the only thing they liked about BUFFALO '66 was the "cool 360-degree shot" at the end but missed the even cooler use of 360-degree space (a la Ozu) in various other scenes (in particular the dining table), I know right away what I'm dealing with: a minimally educated and nearly brain-dead cineaste who likely believes that "independent film" started with Kevin Smith's CLERKS. They make MATRIX movies for people like this. I wonder how they got into a BUFFALO '66 screening. Maybe they thought it was a sci-fi film about flying buffalo.
Again, if you don't like the movie: fine. But have something to say about what you didn't like, other than juvenile scatalogical comments and pointless castigation of the filmmaker's personality.
Posted by: cal godot | Monday, May 24, 2004 at 01:57 PM
Excuse me, Cal Godot, but if you want to start in with the name calling, I will gladly join-in to recognize you as the overly-pretentious, condescending, arrogant and obviously not-as-smart-as-he-thinks he is cineaste who gives all pompous critics a bad name.
I'll agree with you on two things: first, "Freeway 2" was a truly terrible movie, almost as bad yet not quite as annoyingly terrible to me, as "Buffalo 66." And Gallo, by the way, was terrifying to watch in it, and not in a good way. Is that his fault or the director's, I'll reserve judgement. Second, the first "Freeway," as you stated, was actually an interesting movie -- one that in no way needed a sequel.
Beyond that, don't try to say it's OK to have an opinion and then call me (or anyone commenting here) a "penny-ante" critic. I am plenty familiar with Gallo shooting his wad of personal cinematic references (including the dining room scene) onto the screen. Sadly, I think you have it backwards. The wannabe I-hate-Hollywood people (obviously they're not as competent to do so as you are) tend to believe that independent film started with "Sex, Lies & Videotape," not "Clerks." If YOU want to castigate others, get it right.
It's not "witless rhetoric" to say something is boring or, as I said, a "stale pile of shit" when the film is, in fact, dull as hell. It also is not the pinnacle of cineaste knowledge to think that something which is different or new is automatically good. I find it interesting that you are so easily able to dismiss "The Matrix" -- just because the filmmakers stupidly destroyed their own mythology and to some their reputation because their sequels basically sucked, the first is a good movie. But since we're placing people into groups here without knowing them because some of us are so obviously more educated and intelligent than others, you are obviously an audience member who could never find value in something that does come from the mainstream with a big budget. If you're going to try to make such an argument against populism, why not try to be a little less-hypocritcal (yes, so what is wrong with "The Matrix" -- you don't even give it the benefit of using a "juvenile scatalogical" comment such as "boring") and specifically talk about the sequels or an actual piece of Hollywood tripe like the terrible "Van Helsing."
Personally, I saw "Buffalo 66" I suppose six years ago now, and had such a violent reaction to the (here I go, saying it again) stale piece of shit (which was more a direct argument against Filmbrain's comment "a breath of fresh air") that I have tried to block out much of the movie. That's why I do not at this point make more specific comments about why I hated it so much. I would consider rewatching it and giving you a report so as not to appear so "scatalogical," but I'm afraid I would need to poke out my eyes, and I still kind of like seeing.
You yourself don't do anything in this comment but try to claim you know more than the rest of us. Big deal: he referenced Ozu. You apparently have lower standards than I because that alone does not impress me, nor did anything else in the film. Nor did your comment.
Posted by: Aaron | Monday, May 24, 2004 at 02:31 PM
Actually, Cal, it was not Freeway 2. It was a film that was never released because, as I said, it was a very weak version of Taxi Driver. I believe the year was 1995. I received a screener from an independent STV distribution company looking for foreign cable and TV sales because, as I mentioned, I was working for a film licensing agent who specialized in foreign markets. But, of course, you are quite obviously an self-styled omniscient film god who thinks that if you don't like crap like Buffalo 66 you must not really understand indie film. What a crock! Not enjoying Gallo's assinine pap is a mark of good taste. Do I need to detail my problems with his films? No. The film wasted my time when I watched it. Why spend time reliving it? The insinuation that if you don't get it then you must be some kind of idiot that had no idea what the film might entail is something that, well, Vincent Gallo might say (even though even he knew enough to apologize for his most recent crap). But heck, your opinion is better than mine, right?
BTW: It is an insult to the intellect of a small soap dish to compare Gallo with Welles.
Posted by: MercuryX23 | Monday, May 24, 2004 at 02:39 PM
The belief that self-indulgence is the mark of genius is a horrible misconception. Everyone needs an editor; the heaping pile of vapid, shallow, useless people that comprise most of Los Angeles (nearly all of whom work in film) vainly believe in their own self-importance at the expense of taste, care and quality storytelling. I don't say that judging solely by the output of the film industry at large, but because I deal with the products of that self-indulgence all day, every day, with little to no variation in the rhetoric of self aggrandizement.
For every film I see--or book I read, or album I hear--there are ten more that were uncompromising in the struggle to achieve the manifest destiny of personal expression, and those ten are therefore uniformly uninteresting. That sort of ego is what murders art--take out the personal (and, thusly, the universal) and all you're left with is the person.
And frankly, who the fuck cares about anyone but themselves?
Posted by: Marleigh | Monday, May 24, 2004 at 06:58 PM
sorry to disappoint but i loved buffalo 66 and despite the fact that i think vincent gallo is a pretty repugnant person, i think this film may well be brilliant. and i saw it before i knew enough about film to "get" the references to other films, so it's not for that reason. filmbrain is onto something when he mentions the childish things he says in the film, including the "i'll never speak to you again" thing. this runs throughout the film, and isn't there just for the hell of it or just for laughs. nor is christina ricci's little-girlishness, nor her over-developed body. this film to me is about two people (all people?) having difficulty making the transition to adulthood and fitting in.
Posted by: cynthia | Tuesday, May 25, 2004 at 12:12 PM
Gallo, and his movies, are responsible for passionate arguments on both sides of the fence -- it's always been that way, oddly enough. Name calling is hardly the proper response.
Gallo is incredibly self-indulgent. And an egoist. And more than a bit of an asshole. Yet I've always liked him as an actor, and then as a director. (Comparing him to Welles in any regard is indeed laughable though.)
I really don't mind that Aaron strongly disagrees with me -- nor do I think he's penny-ante for doing so. His opinion is no less valid than mine.
Once again though, Marleigh steps in and kicks all our asses with a brilliant response. (I am about to get down on one knee and propose, or at least ask her to be my agent.)
Posted by: Filmbrain | Tuesday, May 25, 2004 at 12:26 PM
Filmbrain, you can't propose to Marleigh. Your wife would not approve.
And Marleigh, I agree with you completely; the only thing your comment is missing is a larger discussion about the difference between self-indulgent filmmaking and personal filmmaking because those are two different things completely (something Cal Godot is apparently too self-indulgent to recognize -- yeah, I took another shot! He pisses me off).
As for Cynthia and Filmbrain both loving "Buffalo 66" -- sigh -- it's so disappointing. Now that will always be my footnote on your opinions, so valued otherwise.
Of course, so much is inexplicable in this world. I just read someone else's blog on which she claimed to think "Van Helsing" was a lot of fun, rather than the 2-1/2 hours of pure torture (Kate Beckinsale not withstanding) that I experienced.
Posted by: Aaron | Tuesday, May 25, 2004 at 01:19 PM
Um...wait....we're Mormons, so it's cool. (At least be my agent.)
Van Helsing?!? You're even a bigger glutton for punishment than I thought.
Posted by: Filmbrain | Tuesday, May 25, 2004 at 03:51 PM
I also agree with you, Aaron; there is a sizeable difference between self-indulgent filmmaking and personal filmmaking. I only declined to delve into it further because our good friend Cal probably wouldn't have understood the distinction--even if I'd used small words--but I figured the rest of your readers would already be aware of the distinction.
As for Filmbrain, last I checked only the Church of the Lamb of God was still down for polygamy and blood atonement, so I think we might be SOL on the marriage front unless you feel like going on a bloody, murderous rampage in the course of gaining another wife. Besides, between your wife and my boyfriend we might run into some minor opposition.
Then again, we could always just schedule a yearly rendezvous in Aruba under the pretense of participating in some shady corporate money laundering scheme.
Posted by: Marleigh | Tuesday, May 25, 2004 at 06:06 PM
Hooray for name-calling!
Anyway, I actually liked B 66, but not as much as the trailer for that flick. Do any of you remember it? Fucking astounding, with the Yes song and the quick cuts and then at the end, when the song slows down and the camera is above Gallo and Ricci in bed and they turn over in slow mo. Very effective.
Anyway, Gallo cracks me up. I love uber-pretentious people, from a distance, of course.
Posted by: sac | Wednesday, May 26, 2004 at 01:20 PM