When Vincent Gallo’s film The Brown Bunny played at Cannes in 2003, Roger Ebert walked out of the screening and called it the worst movie ever to play the festival. (He later recanted, somewhat, saying that wasn’t a fair criticism because he hadn’t actually seen every movie that ever played Cannes.)
Gallo — whose movie infamously depicted Chloe Sevigny going down on her co-star and director, like, for real, in real time — had a characteristically even-keeled response, calling Ebert a “fat pig with the physique of a slave trader” and, for good measure, wished for Ebert to get colon cancer.
Ebert remarked that watching his own colonoscopy was more entertaining than The Brown Bunny, but it was another riposte that people were bringing up today after Ebert’s death as a prime example of the critic’s wit: “Someday I will be thin, but Vincent Gallo will always be the director of The Brown Bunny.”
A pettier man would have left it at that. But when Gallo re-edited his film and shaved off some 26 minutes, Ebert graciously reviewed the film again — and gave it a thumbs up.
The film’s form and purpose now emerge from the miasma of the original cut, and are quietly, sadly, effective. It is said that editing is the soul of the cinema; in the case of The Brown Bunny, it is its salvation.
Ebert wrote about the two making amends a year later. Gallo has yet to publicly comment on the passing of his onetime nemesis.