Buffalo '66

Buffalo '66 ★★★★

Vincent Gallo’s nervy dark comedy is repulsive on the surface, but surprisingly sweet underneath. It plumbs the depths of its cruel, violent protagonist and finds its own distinct brand of humanism in the process. The film opens with Billy being released from prison and immediately needing to use the bathroom before he’s stepped on the bus into Buffalo. Billy’s mad dash for an open restroom humanizes him by reducing him to his animal urges - speaking for myself here, this character immediately becomes relatable in this moment. Gallo's performance is so great, too, his comic arrogance running up against raw anger, a total live-wire performance that maintains Billy's essential, sad puppy dog charm. He plays so well against Christina Ricci - whose performance resists easy Manic Pixie Dream Girl traits - and the movie really goes to the next level in its second half, when it's pretty much all about Ricci and Gallo interacting with one another. A couple that doesn't kiss, just spanning time together.

One has to contend with the fact that Gallo himself is not all that different from Billy. It unsettles me to read about how he treated Christina Ricci on set, or the things he's said about her in the years since this film was released. But if you accept that artists channel their flaws and insecurities into their work as a means of better understanding them, then Buffalo ’66's optimistic ending is as much wish fulfillment as it is a cry for contentment.

I forgot that there's a scene in this where Ricci tap dances to a King Crimson song, and it works. It's also not even the only moment where Gallo perfectly soundtracks a scene with a prog rock song.