Vincent Gallo is not a movie director pur sang, not because he is not a real movie director, but because he is really a lot of other things, an ex-painter too good and too spitefull to paint, a model (but there’s no real merit in that), an unrecognized musician, and actor, among other things. He is also a typical product of American culture, that is, an inferior, deranged, obnoxious attention-seeker with a brilliant eye for appearances. A lack of recognition combined with an endless over-estimation of one’s own superiority is a perfect as imperfect combination for genius. That Gallo has a spark of genius to display is proven in Buffalo ’66 (1998).
The story line of Buffalo ’66 in the beginning is completly absurd and unrealistic, but realistic enough to keep you doubtful about Gallo’s intentions. He weaves the red threat of the movie between symbolic and realistic images, where the action mainly represents the emotional state of the semi-autobiographical antagonist. This movie is in essence a coming of age thriller, about Gallo’s emotional complexities, complexities that he probably will never solve, if there’s a desire to solve them to start with. The American heartland is full of desolate youth without a way to release their anger and fulfill their sense of forsakenness. No matter how rich and diverse American culture is, there is a certain incompletion of the American psyche, which is beautifully expressed in Buffalo ’66.
The tagline for Gallo’s Buffalo ’66 reads: “Billy Brown just got out of jail. Now he’s going to serve some real time. He’s going home.” This is only half the truth, because the real hard time Gallo is serving in life, is that of being alone. He yearns like all children to grow up and fly out into the world, and this desire incites him to hate his home, the home that represents a world to every child that is not his own. The movie is a modern, hetero version of the novel by Dutch author Gerard Reve entitled The Evenings. Here even more than in Buffalo ’66 time is a central theme, but the feeling of imprisonment is also seen in Gallo’s movie.
The cinematography is brilliant without brightness. The sense of ordinary commonness is typical of contemporary cinematography and visual arts. Under the influence of pulp media, reality shows and technological advances like homevideo, art has more and more turned toward a style that is no longer elevated or professionally slick. Art is consumed, recycled, art is no longer aiming to accomplish eternal beauty, but instead it tries to catch a snapshot of reality, an impression of ephemeral daily life. Gallo ‘s Buffalo ’66 is without a doubt a classic of cult cinema and it is perhaps a petty that Gallo is more than just a movie director striving to establish an asshole image, because his effort modelling is certainly lost for independent cinema.