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Cinema Short Takes: Buffalo ’66

2 minute read
Richard Schickel

Billy Brown (Vincent Gallo) emerges from the prison where he’s just done a five-year stretch with three missions. The first, and most hilariously pressing, is to find a place to take a pee. The next is to find a girl willing to pose as his fiance and help him convince his sublimely indifferent parents (Anjelica Huston and Ben Gazzara) that he’s been doing top-secret CIA work all the years he was in jail. The last is to assassinate the Buffalo Bills placekicker whose missed field goal caused him to lose the bet that led him into a life of crime.

That’s a lot for a young man, pretty much incapacitated by rage, and not too bright to begin with, to handle. But Gallo, who also wrote, directed and scored Buffalo ’66 , is a smart young filmmaker, not least in his casting. Gazzara, angrily mourning his lost career as a local lounge singer, and Huston, obsessing on the Bills’ football frustrations, are glorious eccentrics. And Christina Ricci, as the tap dancer Billy forces to play his faux fiance, is just lovely. She falls into instant love with her abductor, and with a kind of patient ferocity redeems his sanity.

And this says nothing about Gallo’s own demonic charm as Billy or his directorial boldness in juxtaposing the emotional surreality of his story with the bleak reality of his hometown in winter, creating a sort of casual but strangely haunting weirdness.

–By Richard Schickel

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