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Director's dud widely reviled--even by him

CANNES, France--The Affair of the Brown Bunny, one of the most astonishing episodes in the history of the Cannes Film Festival, took another turn Friday when director Vincent Gallo apologized for his film and said, "It is a disaster and a waste of time."

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Gallo's "Brown Bunny," which screened as one of three American entries in the official competition, was the lowest-rated film in the history of Screen International, the British trade paper that tabulates votes of a panel of critics. It was booed and laughed at during its screenings, there were countless walkouts, and its inclusion as an official selection called into question the judgment, even the sanity, of the programmers. That several French critics liked it was, Gallo said, "almost like salt in the wound."

The film consists of an unendurable 90 minutes of uneventful banality, as Gallo's character travels cross-country toward a motorcycle race in California, followed by a hard-core sex scene in which he imagines he receives fellatio from his lost love, played by Chloe Sevigny. Let it be said that Sevigny, who reportedly cried during the screening, is heroic in the way she finds conviction and truth in her character, in the midst of the general catastrophe. Many minutes of the earlier scenes consist of such shots as a windshield gradually accumulating dead bugs. Gallo is talented as an actor, and his first film as a director, "Buffalo 66" (1998), was so quirky and free-spirited you not only forgave its eccentricities but cherished them. Nothing in his previous career would predict the disaster of "Brown Bunny."

"I accept what the critics say," Gallo told Screen International, whose panel gave the bunny its record low rating. "If no one wants to see it, they are right. I apologize to the financiers of the film, but I must assure you it was never my intention to make a pretentious film, a self-indulgent film, a useless film, an unengaging film."

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"L'Affaire Brown Bunny" has generated so much publicity, as the low point of a dismal year at Cannes, that it may actually find French distribution; there may be a cachet attached to seeing such a universally derided film. Some French critics specialize in defending the indefensible, to show that they alone can understand a rejected work; their explications of "Brown Bunny" may be--indeed, must inevitably be--more entertaining than the film.

Gallo might be expected to leave town quickly after the bunny debacle, but he is also an actor in Peter Greenaway's "The Tulse Luper Suitcases: The Moab Story," which plays in the official competition here over the weekend. That means he will be expected to march once again up the red carpet and into the Palais--where, he said, the "Brown Bunny" screening was "the worst feeling I ever had in my life."

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