Buffalo '66

Buffalo '66 ★★★★

From the moment Billy Brown gets out of prison, he doesn't belong. It's a very matter-of-fact release, like 'we're done with you, on your way.' There's no one there to pick him up, he stumbles around looking confused with his hands stuffed into his pockets before going back and asking to use the bathroom. He might as well have asked if he could go back inside.

Buffalo 66 is a pretty brilliant depiction of loneliness, depression and the desperate will to be loved. Brown, a lot like Gallo in reality, at first comes off as a real dickhead. Yelling at someone in the bathroom, yelling at Layla the first time he meets her, yelling down the phone. Just yelling. But as the film slowly progresses and especially during the scenes at Billy's parents house it's clear that his childhood was a constant stream of insults, arguing and blaming thrown at a poor kid growing up in a broken home. His face is a constant depiction of dark sadness, a face brimming with anger at his parents, at the way his life has turned out that's just begging to be unleashed.

The city of Buffalo and more specifically the nearly-there Bills team of the early 90s is used as a parallel to Billy's life. His super-fan mother blames Billy's birth for missing a game and Billy's term in prison came about due to betting $10,000 on the Bills in the infamous wide right game. And Buffalo's lack of success in general, coupled with their four straight Super Bowl losses tie in to Billy's attitude. The feeling that he just needed that one break, to get out of the town that had caused him so much pain, to win that bet and make something out of his life, to maybe have a steady job and a flashy car and a beautiful wife like he insists to others that he has. An air of bad luck hovers over Billy's life and it's only the introduction of Layla into his life that begins to turn his pain into a memory.

Ricci's Layla oozes an innocent seductiveness with her youth, her short skirt and her wide-eyed stare but the film subverts the expectation that she'll be some sort of manic pixie dream girl. Though we know less about her she and Billy are one and the same, lost lonely souls looking for companionship to hopefully take them away from wherever they are. Although Billy kidnaps Layla she instantly falls for him but it's less stockholm syndrome and more of a genuine affection for someone that feels the same way she does. There isn't a sexiness to their emerging relationship, rather a sadness. Layla asks to get in the bath with Billy but simply because she doesn't want to be left alone. They lay on the bed together but there's no intention of sex, instead they curl up and hold each other in probably the tenderest, maybe saddest moment of the film. Two people formerly totally alone in the world having now found someone who shares their pain. Billy takes longer to get to that point where he can finally trust Layla and be willing enough to let his guard down (as he slowly does over the course of the film, opening up a little more each scene) but it makes the ending genuinely sad through Billy's short-sighted self-sabotaging plan but then genuinely joyous after the ol' switcheroo.

Cinematography here is wonderful. Contradicting stories on whether it was in fact Lance Acord or mostly Gallo but either way some of the shots here are mesmerising in their own grimy, washed-out way. The town is never shown as anything more than a rundown place with washed up, desperate people but the film finds beauty anyway. Layla stands out amid a sea of dark colours with her bright blue eyes and blonde hair, that tap-dance being so brilliant in a sort-of indescribable way. Billy's parents home is adorned with Bills memorabilia, cramped like any other house but the shots of Layla and Gazzara in the red-walled room are superb in their simplicity and the strange disproportionate dinner table POV shots play up the weirdness of proceedings between the four.

Kind of strange I didn't like this much when I first watched it. Perhaps I've become a lot more like Billy or something. Maybe it's the Gazzara link but this feels a lot like a Cassavetes film with it's verisimilitude and frankness. But it throws in some influence from the French nouvelle vague (tap dance scene) some 80s action slow-mo (ending) and a lot more. Quietly brilliant, Ricci is a queen and Gallo hasn't made anything better.

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