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110 minutes | Unrated ('R'-equivlent)
LIMITED: Friday, July 10, 1998
Written & directed by Vincent Gallo
Starring Vincent Gallo, Christina Ricci, Anjelica Huston, Ben Gazzara, Kevin Corrigan, Mickey Rourke, Rosanna Arquette, Jan-Michael Vincent, Kevin Pollak
This film is #1 on the Best of 1998 list.
SMALL SCREEN SHRINKAGE: 10%|
The gritty, funny, troubling soul of this picture will translate well to the small screen.
VIDEO RELEASE: 02.01.2000
No bonus materials at all. But the transfer is good quality, and I'm just glad this hard-to-find movie's been re-issued on DVD.|
RATIO: 1.85:1 (NOT 16x9 enhanced)
SOUND: Dolby 2.0
SUBS: English, Spanish
DVD RATING: **
Writer-director-star Gallo his taps inner demons for intense, stylistic 'Buffalo '66'
One of the marks of a truly sublime actor is the ability to take a character the audience wouldn't spend two minutes with in real life and somehow make him (or her) endlessly fascinating, usually by baring his soul.
In "Buffalo '66," born-to-lose parolee Billy Brown is the kind of seedy, abusive creep most commonly seen being shoved into the back of police cars on "Cops," drunk, shirtless and upchucking obscenities.
But in the hands of Vincent Gallo -- writer, director and star of this bleak, outstandingly creative film -- Billy has a seething, vexed depth, molded by a lifetime of parental abuse, poor judgment and very bad luck.
Greasy, resentful and just released from a five-year turn in the pokey -- he'd made a false confession to get out of a $10,000 debt to a bookie -- he has returned to his home town of Buffalo, New York, not because he's comfortable there or because he's homesick, but because he is desperately grasping for anything familiar to give his life some semblance of control.
He visits his vile, hateful parents (Anjelica Huston and Ben Gazzara) seeking even begrudging acceptance -- but only after wandering into a dance studio and impulsively kidnapping Layla (Christina Ricci), an innocently voluptuous tap student, to pose as his wife.
It's a pathetic attempt to persuade them he has beaten the odds of his unfortunate upbringing, but it backfires. His folks take a shine to the girl and virtually ignore Billy, leaving him glowering bitterly at their tacky, Formica kitchen table.
"Buffalo '66" is a gloomy, slice-of-life drama about people with miserable lives, but at the same time it's a vicious satire of dysfunctional suburbanites. As repugnant (and sometimes ridiculed) as they are, Gallo loves his characters and makes the audience understand why, with naked, honest and awkward moments that ring uncomfortably true.
Failing to find security at home, Billy drags Layla to the bowling alley of his childhood championships -- only to succumb to gutter ball syndrome. Later he demands she pose with him for photo booth snapshots to mail home the next few Christmases and feign that they're a happy couple "spanning time."
This scene is one of the film's highlights, a brilliant example of how completely Gallo and Ricci embody their characters. In four or five minutes of uncut footage seen from the booth's camera, the unsmiling Gallo goes through shades of anger, nervousness, sensitivity and malice. Ricci gets cheerfully into the spirit of the photo until she is berated for being physically affectionate and begins to sulk like a scolded child.
Adorably Rubenesque and dyed platinum blonde, Ricci gives a gradually and subtly revealing performance as Layla that helps cement the creative vivacity of the film.
An insecure neurotic in a cheap babydoll dress, at first she invites disbelief as she passes up more than one wide-open opportunity to simply walk away from her captor. But slowly we begin to understand that Layla is just as psychologically damaged as Billy, an affection-starved girl who finds herself emotionally attached to her agressive and verbally abusive kidnapper, simply because he pays her any kind of attention at all.
Gallo shows stunning native ability as an actor and a director. This film is a bit of an ego trip (the writer-director-star also composed and performed all the film's music), but his wounded, embittered performance is captivating, and so is his filmmaking.
Employing picture-in-picture flashbacks, subjective cameras, and an optically shocking, pioneering technique of pivoting around within a freeze-frame, "Buffalo '66" has an edgy, experimental air to it without feeling gimmicky. But as distinct as Gallo's style is -- the whole picture has a slightly grainy, over-developed look to it -- his visual stunts are used mostly to pry inside Billy's head, aiding the film's emotionally profundity instead of distracting from it.