Review by Rumsey Taylor
Posted on 24 August 2004
Source Wellspring 35mm print
Despite its languid, almost hypnotic pacing, The Brown Bunny is exalted with enormous suspense. It’s nearly impossible to see this film without knowledge of its graphic climax, which the more casual viewers are informed of by the self-imposed X-rating, boasted clearly on the film’s posters. It is to the advantage of this film that such suspense is afforded, and to its disservice that suspense is the most temporary of cinematic qualities.
In the eighty some minutes that precede this climax, we follow Bud Clay, traveling from New Hampshire to Los Angeles for a motorcycle race. We learn of Bud’s past love, Daisy, and his displaced affection for women who are also named after flowers. The film intends a lack of clarity; we are to consider the circumstances of their dissolved relationship with the broken information we are given. Bud’s painful melancholy is delivered in swollen eyes and a voice that falters with hesitation, and he is meticulously framed in a two-shot that cuts between his perfectly centered right temple and his view through a windshield painted with dead insects; it is a resilient image in the film that characterizes the aspect of Bud’s existence: like the motorcycle races he participates in, his life is in a perpetual loop, emotionally static and scored in despair and frustration.
Accompanying Bud’s constant melancholy are the more mundane happenings of his travel. On more than one occasion Bud stops for gas, and resumes his trip. This action, and others, bears no contributory influence to the already sparse narrative, other than to give emphasis to the repetitive actions that now punctuate his life. The Brown Bunny is made with a stubborn desire to include the mundane. Save for an occasional folk tune heard in entirety, little happens, and we’re left to interpret the film’s emotions and themes solely in Bud’s worn face. The film is neither descriptively sufficient nor inspired, but it’s certainly not as bad as it has been deemed.
Expectedly, all of these prior actions are entirely supplementary to The Brown Bunny’s final scene. The intercourse (which accompanies a revelation) intends to orient Bud’s longing, to provide an incredibly visceral reference for his desperate frustration. Despite this scene’s utility as the narrative climax, The Brown Bunny will be permanently characterized by this scene.