Buffalo ’66 (1998) by Vincent Gallo

We’ve all heard how when you die your whole life flashes through your eyes like a collection of disjointed images that make sense of who you are at that final moment and how you ended in there. Fuck, let’s not get sentimental…if you want to read this review, go ahead and if you really don’t want to, I don’t give a shit.

Premiered in 98′ Vincent Gallo’s debut as a director is a snapshot of all the quirks, paranoias and even paraphilias of this Italo-American actor. Vincent Gallo is Vincent Gallo. In every dialogue, in every silence, and every fuckin’ scene. While it seems unreasonable to think that the script is autobiographical, as the author stated in some press interviews, it is easy to find some truth in the composition of the character if we to put aside the twisted Greek tragedy that the whole movie seems to be sometimes.

The story of the main character, Billy Brown, could be exactly the same life story of every White trash boy from this America, sadly and melancholic even kitsch sometimes, where everything seems to come and go but nothing ever happens. Sometimes this feeling of a God forsaken town in the middle of the USA reminds you of the way the Coen Brothers have to make from an unexceptional story a gem in the middle of garden of shit. The details reveal the uniqueness of Billy Brown. The internal conflicts that make a grown man with sociopathic tendencies to behave like a child who feels abused and destroyed by the dysfunctional world that he has grown up in. A child who decided to put himself into a superhero costume made of a dark green leather jacket, skinny jeans and a pair of red fuckin’ boots. And the hair, okay? But none of this Superman’s faggot style. You’ll probably not get it, fine, but do not touch it, okay?

Here, everything is exaggerated to the limit. If you see the opening scene, where we get into this desperate and surreal search for a toilet you will probably ask yourself “why doesn’t he piss in a fucking corner?” Because his cock is not worthy for a corner and, at the same time, he is too shy to do it in front of everyone. Our hero is constantly struggling between adapting to his circumstances and the desperate attempts to adapt to the circumstances of his perverse world.

The dichotomy of the hero’s struggle is reflected in the human relationships he establishes with each part of his life. His life could be separated into 3 acts. First, his parents, brilliantly played by Angelica Huston and Ben Gazzara. They are a couple fraught with worry over the mother’s obsession with the Super Bowl of 1966 and his father’s frustrated career as a singer. Through this couple, we discover a piece of the complicated character of Billy. While they treat him with neglect and disdain he is still trying to demonstrate that he has not been able to grow up as a person. Incapable of clearly expressing this sentiment he tells them that they can go fuck themselves. It is amazing to discover how Billy make an elaborated plan to change the reality of his time in prison into a happy life of success and triumph just to make this “mother” proud. The one who would prefer not to have had her child, who offers him chocolate and booze not knowing that he is actually allergic to it. Or maybe she really knows it and she is just trying to kill him.

The second part of the emotional core is based on his relationship with his best friend, Goon (Kevin Corrigan). You know why everybody calls him goon? Because he is retarded. He is ugly and retarded. That’s why everybody calls him a fuckin’ goon. But once again there is much more under the surface. He’s like the little brother that he never had. The one you’re always telling that he was adopted, just to mess his head, but deep down you know that he will follow you wherever you’ll go as a faithful knight taking care of you, staring at you like a little brother proudly looks at his hero.

Finally, and this is the most important part of this emotional puzzle, there is Wendy Walson, a young Christina Ricci. How is it possible to kidnap a woman, treat her like a fucking mongoloid and make her fall in love with you from the very first moment she sees you? She is a simple girl who is not used to this life of luxury with cars like a Cadillac El Dorado. She doesn’t know why her life sucks or maybe she knows. She is an actress herself. She seeks to escape her life spitting bullshit in each sentence. Every word she says is false…and true indeed. Billy is the sweetest man she ever met because everyone she has met in the past has been a moron and because deep down he is actually a nice guy. She would be happy too just enjoying this moments when a couple spend time together, they love each other so much but they do not touch each other, okay?

She lives terrorized because if she makes a fool of him, he will fuckin’ kill her … or he will just stop talking to her in the school’s playground. But let’s not forget, she is a woman and as our hero says, is therefore a liar and cheater. A bitch. A special whore, beautiful and addictive, he realizes soon that he cannot escape from her. But she is a whore, damn. That woman represents what he has pursued all his life since his adolescence, the original Wendy Walson played by Rosanna Arquette specialized on playing fucked up jonky characters.

Putting aside the irrational emotions, at some points the movie turns into some mental delirious scenes guided by the manipulation of reality, close to a dreamy vision with this 50s commercial style. We can hear his father beautiful voice worthy of the best Sinatra or admire the fragility with which Wendy can make a shy tap dancing in a depressing bowling room, showing the purest essence of innocence. We can also discover how a seedy strip club, out of sexplotation movie back in the 70’s, may be the perfect place to have a life revelation that changes the direction of your own destiny. I cannot forget the short scene where Mickey Rourke asks if Billy ever met someone so stupid to be like him, so fucking idiot to be Billy Brown.

The photography radiates melancholy as the dim light that illuminates the souls of our characters, like a painting by El Greco. Everything around seems pointless, with a few extras that most of the time are common people just walking by in the middle of the scene, expressing this feeling of simplicity that allows realistic plunge into the veracity of this dysfunctional paranoia you’re seeing. The flashbacks sometimes seem to be just notes that Gallo wrote down in the middle of the filming. But in the end, aren’t them like that? Sparkly moments that shock your mind while your life continues on a parallel dimension.

So after all of this shitty review, now you’re wondering why you should see this film? As I said before if you want to, give it a chance and if you won’t, I don’t give a fuck. Billy would say you’re probably missing the whole point of it because you’re a whore, a fuckin’ ugly retarded whore who cannot recognize a genuine piece of art even if you would have it in front of your eyes because you will probably try to understand it, instead of just feel it.

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  • Frutac Vilendru

    Very good article ! Vincent Gallo is the best, i love the fact that you are writing to embody his persona, great article, love the new cinema section.

    • Borja Fuente

      Thank you Frutac! We’ll keep working on this amazing new section!

  • B Gordon

    This is a great analysis of a great film. Buffalo 66 is dysfunctional. It is hard to watch, yet stunningly beautiful and well-crafted at the same time. Abuse and neglect run rampant through the film but an aching undertone pays homage to the beauty of life and love.

    The filmmaking is superb. The way Gallo ties the soundtrack to the film is incredible, and the acting is exceptional, particularily Angelica Huston and Ben Gazzara as Billy’s parents. The film is full of subtlety and portrays a highly artistic rendition of the mundane, morbid existence of suburban life. This is powerful stuff.

    The main characters are pathetic and beautiful at the same time. The film has inspired a lifelong hatred between Gallo and Ricci in real life. Too bad, they both are excellent in this film and it is the best work either one has done.

    • Borja Fuente

      Thank you mate! I’m glad that you like the article but more important that you liked the movie! 😉