Filmmaker Mike Leigh's biography of the landscape painter J.M.W. Turner is what critics call "austere"—which means it's slow and grim and deliberately hard to love—yet…
Vincent Gallo has put a curse on my colon and a hex on my prostate.
He called me a "fat pig" in the New York Post and told the New York Observer I have "the physique of a slave-trader." He is angry at me because I said his "The Brown Bunny" was the worst movie in the history of the Cannes Film Festival. I was not alone in my judgment. Screen International, the British trade paper, convenes a panel of critics to score the official entries. "The Brown Bunny" scored 0.6 out of a possible five--the lowest score in its history, the paper said. This came as a blow to the French. Their national pride could not abide the notion that an American film was worse than any of their own, and so a few days later they countered with Bertrand Blier's "Les Cotelettes.""It actually scored even worse with our forlorn international critics," Colin Brown, editor of Screen International, told me.
"Seven zeroes, vs. Gallo's five zeroes." The "Bunny" press screening "was remarkable for the unrestrained hostility of the audience," wrote A. O. Scott in the New York Times. At the end, the audience "gave voice to that French form of abuse that sounds like a cross between the lowing of a cow and the hooting of an owl." During a scene where Gallo shares a bicycle with a young woman, I became so nostalgic for "Butch Cassidy" that I softly sang "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head." I stopped after six words when my wife jabbed me in the ribs.
I was overheard by a writer for Hollywood Reporter, who included it in his coverage about how badly the film was received, and that is another reason Gallo has put the heebie-jeebie on my colon and prostate. I am not too worried. I had a colonoscopy once, and they let me watch it on TV. It was more entertaining than "The Brown Bunny."
"A day after the fiasco of the movie's premiere, Screen International ran a remarkable interview in which Gallo apologized for his film, calling it "a disaster and a waste of time," and adding, "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." He added that the official screening "was the worst feeling I ever had in my life," and said he would never watch the film again.
On Monday Gallo told the New York Post's Page Six that Screen International "made up" his quotes. He added, "I'm sorry I'm not gay or Jewish, so I don't have a special interest group of journalists who support me." Such comments might seem politically incorrect, but not to Gallo, who says he is a conservative Republican, although since his film ends with a hard-core oral sex scene, he is not likely to be fielding many group bookings from the Moral Majority.
But was Gallo actually misquoted?
"Absolutely insane stuff from Gallo," editor Colin Brown assured me. "Not only is everything we wrote in Cannes exactly as he spewed out, word for word, it was all recorded on audio tape." He added, "It makes me wonder whether this is not all some great marketing ploy on his part. I have actually come across people who say 'Brown Bunny' is top of their list of films they most want to see out of Cannes this year."
Fionnuala Halligan, who wrote the Screen International piece, says she quoted Gallo accurately and sent me a copy of his transcript.
"By the end he is shouting and spitting, and his invective is so unpleasant, I feel quite shaken listening to it again," she told me. "I don't think it was a good day for him to meet the press, as he was obviously extremely upset. He was very late, and all the interviews that had previously been arranged got lumped into one group, which is fortunate for me, as he probably would have thumped me otherwise."
Gallo all but wept in a Cannes interview as he described the pain of "growing up ugly," but empathy has its limits, and he had no tears for a fat pig and slave-trader such as myself. It is true that I am fat, but one day I will be thin, and he will still be the director of "The Brown Bunny."
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
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