I've been wanting to start an "interesting double features" series where I pick two films and mention briefly how I think they're linked, and recently my friend and pen-pal D.J. Carlile — translator of Rimbaud: The Works, erstwhile critic, poet, and playwright — wrote the following remarks to me in a letter that fit perfectly with this idea.
But first it's probably worth mentioning that he hates Vincent Gallo and The Brown Bunny. "The scenes you cite are indeed the finest things in it (the rain on the windshield... the mummified parents — especially Dad... the salt flats... the solo melancholy vistas) — but I am not convinced that Bud's tale is the stuff of great cinema. [...] I hope Gallo makes another film, honestly I do. But it had better not be about an alienating and alienated loser driving long distance in his truck/van to settle some old score that he's obsessing over. He has now made this movie twice. I don't get it. (But maybe I'll change my mind after the next opus. As Diaghilev once told Cocteau: "Astonish me.")"
The second paragraph contains a major spoiler for The Brown Bunny.
Reprinted with permission.
"I watched The Brown Bunny again WITH THE SOUND TURNED OFF. Better to observe the visuals... You know, it struck me this time that — with its preponderance of profile angles of the protagonist and his disconnect from his body and emotions — it struck me that this is the Anti-Fellini-Casanova (stript bare).
In both films the "hero" ends up with a nonexistent woman (for all of his previous "womanizings") — a ghost in The Brown Bunny, an automaton in Casanova. Both main characters are shot almost exclusively in profile. Scenes with Parents are halting/disconnected. But the one is a dark, Baroque dreamshow and the other is a minimalist verité on a shoestring. (Both made by guys with Italian names.) Actually, The Brown Bunny and Fellini Casanova would make a great double bill, I think.
Both films are consumed with loathing. Fellini, after reading the Memoirs, grew to utterly hate Casanova and was sorry he'd signed up to make the film. Vincent Gallo is simply consumed with disgust...
Casanova is probably the weakest of all F.F.'s later films due to this disconnect with his main character, but it still has some rather glorious treats (the escape by boat across the sea of heaving plastic tarps, the head of Venus rising from the canals of Venice, the creepy Praying Mantis ballet, the final scenes on the frozen canal)... The Brown Bunny is probably the finest of V.G.'s films because the emptiness at its core is so naked.