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The cream of writer/director combo flicks are diverse and many, from Godard to Takeshi. But on the downside, the ones that fail often fail intensely. One thinks of George Lucas’ recent work. And it’s on this subterranean scrap heap that Vincent Gallo’s Brown Bunny belongs. It’s singular proof of what you can get away with as self-scored and self-obsessed director: lots of shots of yourself scoring with every chick, indulging your hobby (biking) and ultimately, getting blown by a reasonably well-known actress. What could be better? Do some brooding, look lost and intense and string together endless shots of American roads shot through a dirty windscreen, show off the peculiar powerlessness of your light voice, and voila, a Cannes nomination comes your way. Bunny is one of those rare films that gets a negative score for story without in any way approaching Beckett. A negative score for sense and involvement, this film is almost anti-engaging. The one nicely cinematic shot in the desert becomes a grossly meaningless non-statement (you can tell the double negatives are crowding in. Again, our criticism lacks a full discourse of negativity). I’m amazed (in a slightly perverse way) at how Gallo can dilute and de-flavorise his film of all usable meaning and effect, at how he can make himself especially so bland. And to get head from Chloë Sevigny seems to be the ultimate expression of directorial coercion slash getting away with it — I mean when Leonard Nimoy directed Star Trek III he didn’t unload his schlong for all to service, no matter how glazed Shatner’s eyes were ("Spock… Friend..!"). Now, everyone knows that Chloë swallows. For a film about being lost and broken-hearted (merely by association, not by acting, script, montage…) to end on a tawdry note of film-my-dick is amazingly conceited. I had to watch most of Bunny at 4x speed because of all the tedious road shots, and was seriously going to demand a refund from the Leuven video store if I could’ve been arsed filming myself in the process and mailing the tape to Gallo directly.

Also saw Terry Gilliam’s quixotic undoing (I know, the cheaper the pun…) in Lost in La Mancha. As far as cinematic disaster movies go (with what to compare it to, Hearts of Darkness?), it’s quite nutritious documentary fare though not quite the whole narrative meal. A keyhole view into who and what powers own and really control a film project; in this case the insurance underwriters. Gilliam is the dreamer whose under-budgeted film mutinies; there’s moments when he’s facing the darkness and the betrayal but he never quite snaps, his humour doesn’t decay for a second (seeing him watch the rushes reveal his comic intent). He’s not quite as uncompromisingly gung-ho as Coppola, digging himself deeper and deeper into his own personal jungle; just more aloof and resigned to the care of the details of his film, not heeding the executive vultures circling ominously. The unsung hero (or Sancho Panza) of the film is the focused and impressively organised first AD, Phil Patterson. When he’s about to quit you know the film is doomed. Depp doesn’t have much of a say; there’s no conclusive remarks from Rochefort himself which are absolutely necessary; and there’s very little original footage (am afraid to say that very little was actually/probably shot) which could’ve made some great bonus features. The focus is too much on Terry and he comes across like the mischievous director at play with all his fancy dreams. The director, I feel, could’ve learned some important production lessons from Fellini — basically overspend on everything (especially sets), overdraw and go nuts with every detail so that when the executive crunch comes you’ll at least have a basic complement of sets and stages to work with. At least, he had an indulgent De Laurentis to back him; but it’s a good way for dreamer-directors to operate. It’s sad that there’s a recurrent theme of indulged failure to Gilliam’s work; a behind the scenes doco of Baron Munchausen would’ve been very interesting (DVD reissue, anyone? Extra Uma?). But, on the whole, I am keener than ever to get my hands on the Criterion Collection of Fear and Loathing. Particularly eager to get into the amazing sound engineering on that one.

There’s not much to say about the Oscars (which sound infinitely funkier in French: La Cérémonie Os-Car) beside Spike Lee wearing a Fez, but there was a telling audience/recipients/reaction shot, bearing in mind the occasional crowd-shuffling, and which indicates the Academy’s idea of Seating Seniority, a shot of Alan Alda sitting in front of Martin Scorsese, who was actually up for an award. That was surely no accident.

posted by rino breebaart  # 11:39 am
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Alternatively, read about it at: The Slow Review or the long blog. Or even Nurture Health

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