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With: Gerald Ayres, Frances Beatty, Christo and
Written by: n/a
Directed by: John Walter
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 90
Date: 01/01/2002

How to Draw a Bunny (2002)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Self Portrait

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Andrew Moore and John Walter's documentary How to Draw a Bunny begins with an intriguing idea. The police find a floating corpse and identify it as the body of New York artist Ray Johnson (1927-95). They also find a hand-crafted phone book. Everyone in it has a story about the artist, but no one person really knew him. By piecing together the stories, the filmmakers attempt to build as complete a portrait as has ever existed.

For a long time, though, the film assumes that the viewer knows who Johnson is, and for those of us who aren't New York bohemians, the film takes a while to come together. It eventually does, however, and Johnson comes into light as one of the true visionaries, one of those dear people who walk purposefully out of step so that the rest of us can benefit from their exuberance.

The film ends hauntingly with a police video of Johnson's house, neatly organized with everything turned toward the wall, save for one strikingly large photograph of the artist's bald head and piercing eyes. The film gives us generous doses of Johnson's art, notably his collages and his bunnies, many of which were "distributed" through the U.S. mail.

Actor John Malkovich co-produced, and Max Roach provides a jazzy, bohemian drum score (for some reason the filmmakers insist every so often on showing the tips of Roach's brushes in action). Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore provided "additional music."

DVD Details: DVD extras include a commentary track by the filmmakers, 32 minutes of deleted scenes, video footage from the Ray Johnson Memorial Show, and a slideshow of Johnson art. The disc also includes trailers for other Palm Pictures releases: Millennium Mambo, demonlover, Tom Dowd and the Language of Music and Noi.

Jean-Claude, Buster Cleaveland, Chuck Close, Richard Feigen, Janet Giffra, Coco Gordon, Eric Granros, Chief Joseph Iliacci, Morton Janklow, Roy Lichtenstein, Dorothy Lichtenstein, Richard Lippold, Judith Malina, Nick Maravell, Billy Name, Clive Phillpot, Ed Plunkett, James Rosenquist, Malka Saffro, Peter Schyuff, Dennis Selby, Normon Solomon

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