Rabbit of Seville

Film Review by Dean Duncan May 31, 2015

Elmer is hunting wabbits again. This is the final, crazy apotheosis or demolition of that bare and simple set up. Elmer’s horror at finding himself on stage is one of the most basic of nightmare scenarios. Is that where Luis Buñuel got it (1972)? (His wonderful 1983 autobiography, My Last Sigh, suggests otherwise. Still, as he would be the first to admit, the subconscious…)

The song lyrics here are really superb. Bugs is also giving a great demonstration, a great expansion of H.C. Andersen’s notion of the imaginative transformation of objects. He is showing us that it even works with personality. (See also Duck Amuck [q.v.], which does the same thing for and with costumes and backgrounds.) This transformation is rooted in montage principles, and in the disconcertingly idea that meaning is not stable, inherent, or natural. Rather it is manufactured or made through juxtaposition. This is Modernism, of course, and there’s potential danger in it. But not here—the WB’s demonstrate something pretty fundamental, exercising our power to construct surroundings, associations, even lives. This isn’t anxious modernism. This is liberty!

Bugs is on par with Chaplin now. He’s a bunny, a barber, an Italian/Spanish señorita (Rita Hayworth in Gilda, right?), a fakir, a barber again. He’s whatever he puts his mind to, and that perfectly. It’s not just Bugs, but the films themselves: the choreography, the sets, the music, the narrative, the meta-narrative—what they’ve got here is a veritable gesamtkunstwerk.

The concluding arms escalation between Bugs and Elmer is kind of King-Size Canary (Duck Dodgers…), except that this escalating conflict won’t be reduced to anything so obvious or didactic as a Cold War Arms Race. Sharp objects, guns that get bigger and bigger, flowers, candy, a ring, and Elmer in a wedding dress. Gender quake! Anarchy! The End of the World!

Or, after that, the most modest, generous, good-natured and good-humoured virtuosity. They’re a blessing to the human race!