Thursday, April 26, 2012

Buffalo '66

Billy Brown is being released from prison. A guard escorts him out and locks the door after him. Billy has just spent 5 years in prison and is not sure what he wants to do now, he almost seems reluctant to leave it. He looks left, he looks right, finally settles down on the bench by the side of the road. Apparently, ha spends a lot of time on that bench but now he has to pee and guard denies to let him back in for that. So, he takes a bus and goes to the city. On the bus stop, restroom is under maintenance. So he goes out looking for someplace where he can use bathroom. But almost all the restaurants around are closed. He finally spots an open dancing studio or at least that what I thought it was. But he starts an argument with a guy in restroom because he was looking at him and now he can't take a lick. Wait ! What on earth am I talking about ? This is not how I usually open my reviews. But then again, this is not how you open any movie as well, wouldn't you agree ? In one tab here, I have a thesaurus page open because Buffalo '66(1998) is so different, so weird, quirky in almost all the aspects that I am sure soon enough I will run out of adjectives. I probably should not have used different, weird and quirky all in same sentence above. Darn it !!

So, Buffalo '66 written, directed and acted by Vincent Gallo is a story of Billy Brown. As I said above, he is just out of prison. His real problem is he hasn't told his parents that he was in jail for 5 years. Instead, they are under impression that he has been working somewhere else for Government. After coming out, he kidnaps Layla because he has also told his parents that he is married and once they know that he is coming over to visit them, they insist that he brings her as well. So, he needs someone to play the part. He tries to force her, intimidate her initially but pretty soon it wears off and then we follow them for the night over their misadventures. Even before we meet his parents, it is quite evident that Billy is little disturbed. Person in the next stall in bathroom peeking supposed to be a funny incident but he seems genuinely irritated, before kidnapping Layla he asks her for a quarter but even then his behaviour is as if he had a big fight with her. And when he really needs to be a bad-ass, he apologizes to Layla 5 minutes after kidnapping her. However, once we meet his parents, various reasons why Billy became like this become apparent. With constantly bickering father and mother who is constantly glued to football game it is easy to see that Billy takes all his frustration at home out by reacting violently to even the casual events and insulting people like they don't mean anything to him.

If there is one thing consistent in the film that is unconventionality all around. There is not a single character which I can relate to or is similar to anyone I know. Lot of situations that we see on screen are completely unrelated to anything we see like Layla starts tap-dancing on the Bowling floor and whole place suddenly goes dim and there is only a spot-light on her and in another scene his father sings a song which is clear mimicking of the song. However, they both more or less work as they bring out the whole quirkiness of movie. Gallo supposedly based it on the events in his own life, he also shot some of the scenes in his old house in Buffalo. Now what that tells us about Gallo is a different thing but it does add a rather gloomy edge to the whole scenario. If you want to, there are many reasons you can hate this movie like even though she is the lead female character, we never know anything about Layla's story neither we get an inside into why does she starts to have feelings towards Billy. After a little while, it is evident that she is taking part in Billy gig just for the sake of fascination rather than intimidation but that doesn't feel like reason enough for me. But, Gallo doesn't seem interested in giving any such explanation and this might also be indicative of Billy's smug, belittling attitude towards almost everyone. I know next to nothing about Gallo as a person but with the recent news of Gallo suing city of L.A., I won't be really surprised if he is just like Billy in his real life as well.

Most of the central characters do very nice job. Vincent Gallo who apparently played himself is very eccentric, not very likable character but even then by the end, you do sympathize with him. After some time his whims, his habits like repeating the same thing over and over might start to get on to your skin, like they did for me but there is enough character development that even though you don't agree with his actions, you probably might understand them. Christina Ricci is probably the best of the lot, just in terms of the acting as she seems to get into the character from the word go and play her part perfectly even though there might be many things that we would like to know more about her as a character that we never get to know. However, Angelica Huston playing Billy's mother is probably the most hilarious character of all. She is a terrible mother who openly admits that she regrets having her son because it made her miss only Superbowl Buffalo Bills won or completely forgets that her son is allergic to chocolates and rather thinks it is his favorite treat. But Angelica Huston is superb in this role. To round up, Ben Gazzara is Billy's father who probably hates Billy for some reason and argues with him on even silly matters. I don't think I have seen Ben Gazzara in anything else so I don't have any reference to compare with but he does provide an interesting Yang to Huston's Yin.

If you look at Buffalo '66 from any other approach other than character study of a very peculiar person, with all it's idiosyncrasies it might fail. However, it is still frank and quite funny portrayal of Billy with all his faults, fighting with his past for his present to mean something.

Rating(out of 5):


  1. Great review! This sounds like an interesting movie and I adore Christina Ricci. Based on the screencaps the cinematography looks very interesting.

    1. Well, if you like Christina Ricci, this is like a Must Watch. She definitely is the Best part of this. Thanks !!

  2. Buffalo '66 (1998) was overflowing with so many ideas, I enjoyed everything about it, the comedy, performances, inventive use of camera, soundtrack. Was easily among my top 10 older films I saw in 2011. The only bad thing I have to say is the awful trailer, but that's nitpicking (-:
    "There is not a single character which I can relate to or is similar to anyone I know. " Yes, there is something quite unique and very eccentric about these characters. Great write-up, man!

    Here's my review, by the way:

    1. Overflowing is the word and I never saw the trailer, so that isn't problem for me as well. I am not into Music much but I definitely noticed camera-work. But, as I said there is almost nothing conventional about this film and I am glad that in this case, it worked.

      Thanks Chris !! I also left comment on your post.

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