Buffalo '66

Buffalo '66 ★★★½

First of all, I'd like to say that I did love the film's form. Gallo's stylistic flourishes never feel less than absolutely necessary to say what needs to be said. It's naturalistic without indulging in naturalism, tragic without indulging in tragedy, and to top it off, Gallo and Ricci both put on show-stopping performances (not that Ricci was given that much to do, but...). And the portrait Gallo paints of his main character is fantastic! My biggest problem was that he gives none of the same attention to Layla.

Certainly there are gestures towards expanding her character- her monologue at the dinner table for instance- but as a whole there's a very absurd contrast between the deeply considered psyche of Billy and the totally one-note character of Layla, whose job is essentially to shower Billy with completely uncritical love. It reveals a problem I have with these kinds of confessional films, where an asshole director (or artist in general, this doesn't only happen in films) makes a "confessional" film about what an asshole they are, and then just like, continue to be an asshole? Self-examination is pretty pointless unless you're actually gonna try to improve yourself, dude. But I'm getting off my original point. This isn't just a feminist issue (even though it definitely is that), it's just a big flaw when your character-centric film obsesses over one main character and completely short-shrifts the other.

I can imagine a counterpoint to this, which would argue that Buffalo '66 is intended to be a fantasy and shouldn't be read in such a realistic way. I don't know if I like this reading, one because I don't think there's much in-film evidence to support it, and two because it would undercut the optimistic ending, which was my favorite part of the movie. But it does sort of conveniently wave away the above criticism, so I guess there's that. I suppose my best counterpoint to this counterpoint would be to go see Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast, which seems like a weird movie to bring up, but after thinking about it I feel confident in saying the French film is an almost too-perfect example of what Buffalo would have been if it paid as much attention to Layla's fantasies as it did Billy's.

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