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July 30, 2012

The Bunny Game

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Adam Rehmeier - 2010
Autonomy Pictures Region 0 DVD

I can't write about this film without making some other connections that may seem very tangential. But I will come back to write more specifically about The Bunny Game.

First, the shadow of Aurora, Colorado is still in the media and in my life. Keep in mind that I live a few miles away, so this was local news. And since that time various pundits have discussed how responsible film is for inspiring the shooting. One person indicted Warner Brothers based on their Depression era one-two punch of Public Enemy and Little Caesar. And a few years ago, I wrote about a German film about a rapist. My ex was visiting me, and got hysterical watching the first few minutes. Even though the film was about a man who was arrested and was challenging himself to reform his life, the fact that rape was depicted was considered too much for my ex. Her argument was that any form of depiction of rape potentially would inspire a viewer to commit such an act. It was a challenge for me just to keep her from destroying the DVD so I could write about the film later. As far as anti-social activity on the screen goes, I saw again The Great Train Robbery. A gang steals money, shoots unarmed guys dead, and in the most famous image, one of the robbers aims and shoots his gun at the audience. The movie was made in 1903. Yes, over a century ago. Edwin S. Porter may have been inspired by a British movie made earlier that year, A Daring Daylight Robbery. Both films have been considered inspirational . . . to other filmmakers. My own feeling is that the people who get the most upset or pontifical about violence in film usually have at best a very casual knowledge of film history.

I'm also reading Behind the Pink Curtain, a history of Japanese soft core sex films. One thing that is striking is the sub-genre of films involving sado-masochism and bondage within the Japanese industry. Keep in mind that these are films that played in movie theaters primarily in the Seventies and Eighties, and that some of the people involved moved on to mainstream careers. What I have not read in Jasper Sharp's book is any indication that women were in any way violated as a result of someone watching any of these movies, at least not in Japan. Whether one considers a movie like Red Rope or Flower and Snake entertainment is besides the point. Had there been any rapes or abductions inspired by these films, government forces would have certainly intervened.

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Which brings me to The Bunny Game. And I did feel much trepidation when I read the synopsis. Basically, a prostitute is abducted and tortured by trucker. The film is also inspired at least partially by the life of the Rodleen Getsic, who shares screenplay credit with director Adam Rehmeier, and also plays the woman in trouble. Getsic and Rehmeier consider their work to be a horror movie. Whatever one wants to make of that, or any other label, the effect is more of confrontation than titillation.

There is no gore. Except for a couple of scenes of branding, and shaving off of hair, the damage inflicted is overwhelmingly psychological rather than physical. In a larger sense, what I think The Bunny Game is about is male power and female commodification. The prostitute, Sylvia Gray, virtually advertises who she is with her bleach blonde hair, cheap and flashy clothing, and fishnet stockings. All that's missing is a portable neon sign pointing to her, with the words, "Cheap sex here". We first see Sylvia performing a blow job. Sylvia is available for whatever comes her way, be it oral sex behind a dumpster, or rough sex in a shabby motel. Sylvia's life seems to consist of street pickups, snorts of cocaine, brief feelings of remorse about her life, and a repetition of the cycle. One of the customers beats and robs Sylvia. One might dismiss such an incident as simply the perils of the trade, but one might also consider such a scene as indicative of how men use their power to rationalize mistreating not only prostitutes, but women in general.

The abduction of Sylvia by the trucker known as Hog, At one point, Hog and Sylvia wear leather masks of a big snouted hog and floppy eared bunny. Sylvia is chained to a wall in Hog's truck. The relationship between the two is about power, and how Hog uses his power over Sylvia. Rather than banging her, Hog would rather bang a hammer around Sylvia's immobile body, intimidating her with the threat of physical violence.

As Sylvia Gray, Rodleen Getsic is mesmerizing. She's garish and cheap looking, and I couldn't take my eyes off her. There are two tufts of hair above her ears that almost look like substitutes for animal ears. A remarkable moment is a scene after a session of rough sex when Sylvia takes a shower. She's briefly seen with the heavy eye makeup washed away, looking towards a window, with her hands clasped in front of her, as if she was praying to somehow escape from her current life. Getsic performs with very little dialogue, but a very expressive face.

The film also is visually striking. The actual filming took place in 2008, and completed in 2011. Shot in black and white, according to the commentary track, Adam Rehmeier was able to do most of the film in single takes. An accomplished cinematographer and second unit director, there is little to argue with in his choice of compositions. Because of the technical skill, visually this doesn't look like the dashed off work of someone like Ed Wood or William Beaudine. Most of the film is made of quick cuts. What exists of a narrative was actually improvised during the course of filming. The overall effect makes The Bunny Game look more like an "undergound" movie or European art house film from the Sixties.

There may be arguments about the value of The Bunny Game, about what's on the screen as opposed to any intentions of Getsic and Rehmeier. What can't be argued is the searing screen presence of Rodleen Getsic.

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Posted by peter at July 30, 2012 08:55 AM