Buffalo ’66 (1998)

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Director: Vincent Gallo

Stars: Vincent Gallo, Christina Ricci, Anjeclia Huston, Mickey Rourke

The world’s strangest date night

I’d heard many things about Buffalo ’66 before seeing it, but I was still unsure as to what it was about. I’d read that it was about a man who’s released from jail who kidnaps Christina Ricci and makes her pretend that they’re man and wife whilst visiting his parents. This isn’t really the plot though, it just describes the first 45 minutes of the movie. Buffalo ’66 is a kind of quirky comedy/road movie which follows an angry misogynist and his captor, who bizarrely falls in love with him along the way.

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I knew that we were going to be in for a stylish ride right from the opening credits. I do love a stylish opening credit sequence (please see Enter the Void and Irreversible) and Buffalo ’66 delivers with its unusually huge typography covering the screen. And there’s no doubting that Buffalo ’66 is an extremely stylish ride from start to finish. Vincent Gallo (who writes, stars and even does the music for the film) has only directed this and three other films, which is a shame because it’s clear to see that he’s a real talent, even if he does sound like a bit of a prat in person.

The film is beautifully directed throughout and it creates a brilliant kind of quirky mood. I especially liked the unusual camera angles at the parents’ dinner table which created a sense of disorientation and awkwardness. I think my favourite moment would have to be the bizarre moment where Christina Ricci breaks into a tap-dance at a bowling alley to some crudely dubbed tap sounds. It’s a weird and hypnotic moment which shouldn’t work, but does and is very reminiscent of David Lynch’s output, even down to the spotlight. Unfortunately other Lynchy moments don’t work quite as well, such as the moment where Billy’s Dad mimes to Christina. Llorando it ain’t.

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The acting’s pretty good too. Vincent Gallo convinces as the angry fast-talking criminal and is often very funny. I found it particularly funny when he kept constantly repeating how they’re a couple who span time, whilst trying to take a romantic picture in a photo booth. Christina Ricci is also excellent here and very enigmatic, although I did find it difficult to understand why she’d fall in love with such a vile kidnapper. I also loved Anjelica Huston, who’s unrecognisable as Billy’s Bronx-accented mother. In fact, it’s Anjelica who generated the most laughs from me with her constant obsessing over football and lack of interest in her son.

Where the film fell short was in its length. It’s 110 minutes long, but there’s just not enough going on for it to warrant that run time. A lot of the film is about Billy killing time before he can meet up with someone he wants to kill, and so a lot of the film felt like it was forcing unnecessary scenes to occur. The bowling alley scene, for example, felt like it went on for far too long, as did the whole sequence at the parents’ house. I think if a good half hour was cut out of the film, then I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more. After all, it is basically plot-less.

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As a character study it is generally interesting though and the upbeat ending is genuinely uplifting without feeling forced. My feelings towards it are strange because at the time of watching I found it pretty boring, however now I have a strange urge to see it again and I can find a lot of positive things about it on reflection. It’s well-made with a wonderfully quirky atmosphere and good acting. As a black comedy, it’s also very funny and effective. It’s just a shame that it’s so overlong and doesn’t have a more engaging plot.

sevem out-of-ten

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