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Vincent Gallo accuses critic Roger Ebert of disrupting the 2003 Cannes premiere of ‘The Brown Bunny’

In an essay, Gallo spoke about his controversial arthouse film and said he was ‘the Donald Trump of Cannes’.

In an essay in the magazine Another Man, filmmaker and actor Vincent Gallo spoke about his controversial 2003 movie The Brown Bunny and accused the late film critic Roger Ebert of disrupting its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival that year. Ebert had called the movie, which starred Gallo and was also produced, directed, edited and written by him, the “worst film in the history of the festival”.

The film, about a motorcycle racer (Gallo) embarking on a cross-country expedition while haunted by memories of his ex-girlfriend (Chloe Sevigny), caused outrage over an explicit scene between the lead actors. The segment went on to become one of the most controversial sex scenes in film history.

In the March 20 essay, Gallo addressed the criticism of the scene and accused Ebert of disrupting the press screening at the Cannes. He also made several other controversial claims, reported Indiewire and Hollywood Reporter, including over the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal. Gallo wrote:

“It is outrageous that a single critic disrupted a press screening for a film chosen in main competition at such a high profile festival and even more outrageous that Ebert was ever allowed into another screening at Cannes. His ranting, moaning and eventual loud singing happened within the first 20 minutes, completely disrupting and manipulating the press screening of my film. Afterwards, at the first public screening, booing, laughing and hissing started during the open credits, even before the first scene of the film. The public, who had heard and read rumors about the Ebert incident and about me personally, heckled from frame one and never stopped. To make things weirder, I got a record-setting standing ovation from the supporters of the film who were trying to show up the distractors who had been disrupting the film. It was not the cut nor the film itself that drew blood. It was something suspicious about me. Something offensive to certain ideologues.

Gallo said Ebert’s reactions to the film determined the public response to it. He also explained his motivations for making the film. “The Brown Bunny was an attempt at maintaining illusions and simultaneously presenting a heightened and enhanced version of reality, while hoping to result in new forms of insight into pathological behavior,” he wrote.

About the controversal sex scene, he said “The Brown Bunny is not an attack on feminism or a sexist comment on the contemporary woman’s increased demand for sexual fulfillment. Instead it is simply a reminder of the corrupted nature of men when having contact with a less than sober woman.”

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The Brown Bunny (2004).

Ebert eventually gave the movie a thumbs-up after Gallo screened a re-edited version after the festival. Gallo criticised Ebert’s changed view, saying that the cuts he made were not drastic enough to prompt a change of heart. “If you didn’t like the unfinished film at Cannes, you didn’t like the finished film, and vice versa,” he wrote.
“Roger Ebert made up his story and his premise because after calling my film literally the worst film ever made, he eventually realised it was not in his best interest to be stuck with that mantra. Stuck with a brutal, dismissive review of a film that other, more serious critics eventually felt differently about.”

Gallo brought up a report in Screen International which claimed that he had apologised for making The Brown Bunny. “Hey, if people don’t like the film, I’m sorry for them,” is a far cry from, “I am sorry that I made the film.” or “I apologise for it”,” Gallo wrote.

In this context, Gallo likened himself to American President Donald Trump. “Thankfully, these days Donald Trump has at least created some doubts about everything related to the press. In 2003 I was the Donald Trump of Cannes and anything I said or did was twisted and filtered through the righteous tabloid barbarians posing as journalists and critics,” he wrote.” The US President has often denounced mainstream media coverage that is critical of him as fake news.

Gallo also segued into the Harvey Weinstein scandal in the essay, claiming that the film mogul had tried to sideline him for confronting him about allegedly sexually assaulting Asia Argento. The Italian model and actress was among the first group of women who had accused the producer of harassment in October.

“I was close to Asia Argento, but we were never engaged. I do remember though threatening Harvey Weinstein for what Asia claimed he did to her. That created a real enemy in Harvey who certainly went out of his way to marginalize my work and my opportunities as much as he could. By calling him out then I was his enemy and no one from the press would repeat any of my claims against him. My clash with him was costly to me in a real way.  Naturally, it felt bad when, instead of speaking out along with me, Asia then denied and changed her story and went on to work with him, carry on a personal relationship with him, and repeat additional things I said about him to further enrage him against me. Her appearance in recent press regarding Harvey is very uncomfortable for me.”

Gallo questioned Argento and fellow Weinstein accuser Rose McGowan for choosing to speak out last year. McGowan alleged that the producer had raped her in 1997 and offered her a settlement at the time. “What if, instead of taking a $100,000 payoff to remain silent, Rose McGowan filed charges against Harvey Weinstein at the time of her incident? How many future incidents would she have prevented?”

He added, “Harvey Weinstein is a brutal pig, yes, but I really wish it wasn’t those two particular girls getting glorified for now saying so.”

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.