jack’s review published on Letterboxd:
It’s hard watching movies about yourself, especially if you’re me (or some sort of apple from the rotten tree I hang from): I use movies to forget, to cope, and to grow, to see things from a different point of view or see a different world. Immature and pathetic, I know, but it’s the best mechanism I’ve got – film is my passion. But sometimes, films come along and allow you to return to the past, remember events that have made you who you are today, and transform itself into a mirror, unveiling every bit of flawed stench that clings to you like moldy socks. Vincent Gallo is, unfortunately, one of the very few filmmakers that seems to make movies that I relate to; Gallo is such a scumbag, but the man knows how to strike a chord with me – I wonder what that says about me as a person?
“Buffalo ‘66” is a film that hits too close to home, one of the very few films that I can confidently say I see almost too much of myself in and it’s both frightening and oddly comforting: someone else seems to get it. And by sheer luck, it happens to be a narcissist whose ego is larger than the country’s debt, a person denounced for being one of the most self-absorbed and egotistical artists in the medium, a man so warped by his self-entitled nature that it hurts to see just how warped this person really is. But if there’s anything I’ve come to understand about Vincent Gallo, it’s the fact that his films – this and “The Brown Bunny,” his best work – are films that feel extremely reflective for him: the man is a punk, but the films seem to reveal a hidden layer to the enigma of Vincent Gallo. He seems to acknowledge this in “Buffalo ‘66,” where Billy, our lead, is a man who mirrors Gallo’s personality, but through genius filmmaking, manages to make him extremely sympathetic.
Billy is a hard character to like: he’s a deplorable human being, the real scum-of-the-earth type guy who your parents probably warned you about, and an excruciatingly annoying man-child. The opening of the film sees Billy leaving prison in the middle of a cold winter. He moves around in an awkward fashion: he’s got to pee. Gallo then spends about ten minutes of Billy crossing his legs and pouting to people about a bathroom and manages to set himself up there – or so we thought. It’s after Billy meets (and kidnaps) Layla and brings her to his parents do we start to get the full story: Billy was shaped by his environment, cloaked in a cold embrace and chilling demeanor. Billy was abused by his parents – physically, mentally, emotionally, it all checks out – and struggles with that: he hates his parents, but wants to please them, too. He really doesn’t know what the hell he wants – he’s a wanderer in a world he doesn’t recognize. So, in order to protect himself, he becomes detached and cold, both spiteful and fearful of life.
It’s at this moment (specifically the motel sequence) does it really hit me: in no ways am I truly a deplorable person, but Billy and I share similarities. I’m an extremely cynical and cold person, something that’s grown within me over the past few years; long ago, I was someone who was warm, easy to talk to, and extremely optimistic. Through events and times in my life, I’ve slowly become this person I really don’t recognize. I’m cold and detached, but it’s not something I’m proud of; I'm also immature and find myself getting annoyed by people and typically people who’re positive – it’s so strange, but true. Billy is a character who feels so spiteful of himself: he, like me, hates himself, but it’s the only way he knows how to operate. He’s afraid to connect to people, so he becomes this horrible human being. We cannot let the past go, even if we want it to die so horribly.
The ending is oddly happy: Billy’s finally starting to cope with the pain that molded him and realizes that allowing it to shape him is ruining him. The final few minutes are some of the happiest moments in a film – Billy moves around in an almost dance-like motion, like having a skip in his walk. A smile cracked on his face with some sort of optimistic light gleaming on him. He races to a donut shop to get Layla a hot chocolate and sees a heart-shaped cookie and chooses to buy it for her. It’s a small thing but I feel like Gallo is saying that people like Billy will eventually see some sort of hope – in this moment, it’s a growth that we’d thought we’d really never see in Billy. It’s so weird seeing this and “The Brown Bunny” and how tonally different they are and it feels like they’re mirroring Gallo at different points in his life: this one is the optimistic, “The Brown Bunny” is the one that saw right through the optimism. Both tragic in their own way.
When the fuck are we getting “Promises Written in Water” and “April?” Someone needs to get those in the public as soon as possible.