I recently double-dipped (as I knew I eventually would) with Vincent Galo’s 1998 revelation of an indie opus, Buffalo ’66. Yes, it was probably about three-plus weeks ago that I received an anonymous Facebook message detailing the sole image of Buffalo ‘66’s standard poster/DVD-cover, but now masked in a shinny vintage black and white palette (similar to the film’s soundtrack cover-art) boasting a contemporary re-vamped classic style look, and a long overdue January blu-ray release. Marking the film’s 15th anniversary, Buffalo ’66 gets some prestige re-mastered treatment here, and after re-visiting the movie for the umpteenth time (but this time with proper eye-popping allure) I can finally, and boldly say, something I find hard to spout even with regards to some of my most cherished films… for its type, for what it is, Buffalo ’66 (in my opinion) is a perfect film.
Filmmaker, artist, musician, Vincent Gallo is a renaissance-man of sorts. He is also one of those filmmakers that subversively subscribes to that school of debatably tyrannical filmmaking. Now this isn’t to say that Gallo is a foaming-at-the-mouth dictator when it comes to producing movies (though he is indeed infamously outspoken, opinionated and aggressive with his preaching film-related beliefs, and that’s being cautiously lighthearted and polite on my part) but I say “tyrannical” in terms of the director being utterly hands-on and in absolute control when it comes to telling a story beat-by-beat aligned to whatever his own personalized vision is. In the same league as Rodriguez or Carruth, Gallo grabs hold of multiple aspects of the filmmaking process (he is writer, composer, producer, director, and I’m probably missing out on more here…) and while being so impossibly in-control most certainly can’t be a recipe for success (for any filmmaker) every time out of the gate, with a film like Buffalo ’66, Gallo’s knack for uninterrupted, non-compromised visionary storytelling is the very fuel that rages Buffalo ’66 into the masterpiece-theatre realm of all things classic.
Based on the clips and interviews I’ve managed to dig up on the enigmatic lone-wolf soul over the years, I can say that Gallo is essentially playing Gallo within this film. What does that mean you ask? Well think of Woody Allen on crack combined with a rock-star version of Joe Pesci, and we’ve only just begun to scrape the very surface of what I’m alluding to, but hey, it’s a start. His character Billy Brown has just been released from prison, and yet the real sentence is a short radius of distance away as Billy gears up towards trekking back home to spend some quality cringeworthy time with his beyond neglectful, football-obsessed parents (exquisitely played by Anjelica Huston and the late great Ben Gazzara). In the process of desperately seeking a means to relieve himself, frantically sprinting on the search for a working available bathroom, Billy eventually kidnaps a young tap-dancing local woman in hopes of having her accompany him to his parents’ house under the pretend guise of being his romantically linked lover. The girl, Layla, enigmatically and seductively played by 90’s dream-queen, Christina Ricci, goes along for the ride (I mean she kind of has no choice) but beyond this, it really is more of a “love at first sight” type scenario (I believe) that attaches the two oddball characters at the hip.
Ricci (in the film) is stunning. Weirdly innocent in a contrasting manner that suggests she punched Sid Vicious in the face in another life, Ricci is both captivating in the way her character is utterly transfixed by Gallo’s (what makes this duo’s on-screen chemistry even more legendary is the now infamous fact that the two actors apparently did not get along with each-other one bit in the process of making the film). So as you might have guessed, in the way that I’m describing the protagonists here, Buffalo ’66 does indeed shape itself out into a romance of sorts. But this is after already resembling, a revenge movie, an ‘Art-House’ movie, a dysfunctional-family hijinks movie, but all of these elements are all steeped in tones of painfully obvious high-stakes human-drama. Nothing is cartoonish, in fact, on the contrary, the film seems to exist in this grunge-realism universe where as the possibility of true everlasting love begins to blossom, the said “realism” of the picture starts to heighten into this warm surrealistic coziness that echos the characters own internal desires to their deepest core. This isn’t really spoilers, but what Buffalo ’66 ends up resembling is a story about two apparent outcasts finding love and companionship within each-other, within a world that resembles hell on earth, or from the film’s perspective, a setting even worse — A dreary starving blue-collar Buffalo.
I have been quoting Buffalo ’66 since ’98 (it’s just one of those films in which its script reads like a best-of list of some the greatest dialogue ever committed to 35mm) and for the life of me, I can’t even remember what prompted me to peep this film in the first place, but like everything in my life — no regrets. There’s an infinite wealth of reasons why I pine for this film — how about Mickey Rourke displaying his beaten-down, weathered acting-chops, and adding to his own iconicism well-before any established mainstream comeback for starters? I honestly could go on-and-on spanning time with rave reviews for this flick, so let me just end it all right here, and simply suggest that if you haven’t already seen Buffalo ’66, believe me, you’re missing out on one damn fine hot cup of cocoa.
Watch the Buffalo ’66 Trailer