Buried Treasures is a column dedicated to things we feel have gone underappreciated, often both critically and commercially. We want to share these wonderful musical and cinematic moments with you.
Words: Paul Dean
Film: 'Buffalo ‘66' (1998)
Director: Vincent Gallo
Cast: Vincent Gallo, Christina Ricci, Mickey Rourke, Angelica Houston
I used to tell people that Buffalo ‘66 was my favourite film, though now I'm not so sure, but it will always remain the film that got me into film, just as I reached the cusp of adulthood. It was the first time that my (then tiny, still currently rather small) mind considered film something beyond entertainment; actual art. It opened me up to independent film, alternative styles of direction, elements of minimalism and even to black humour. Yeah, I had a sheltered life, but bear in mind I grew up in a commuter belt village whose name is actually a phrase used for unprocessed sewage: Blackwater.
I can't sell you that enlightenment experience I had, as that's my own, but I can try to sell you the rest. Buffalo ‘66 is the often melancholy tale of a whole lot of small-scale nothing. In a foolish scheme, newly-released convict Billy kidnaps practically the first girl he meets and takes her to his parents' house, forcing her to pretend she's his new wife and thus explain why his parents haven't seen him much lately. The plan is pretty rubbish and hampered by the fact that Billy desperately needs the toilet for most of the first act, yet this girl has so much sympathy for him she still tags along. Later on, various other mundane events grace Billy and his companion, all of which test his terribly short temper, or trigger his characteristic frustration and depression, particularly as his past is slowly revealed.
This is a rather minimalist, downbeat and often dark picture with and stark and moody appearance, thanks to it's being shot on reverse film stock, and at one point it even predates 'The Matrix'’s use of Bullet Time. It received strong reviews across the independent circuit and soon became a cult classic, not least because Lead Actor/Director/Writer/Producer/Composer Vincent Gallo is excellent as the tortured Billy, while the supporting cast includes Mickey Rourke, Anjelica Huston, Ben Gazzara, Rosanna Arquette and the guy from 'Airwolf', as well as Christina Ricci opposite Gallo.
I'd like you to give 'Buffalo ‘66' a try, though it may be an acquired taste. If I wanted to define that taste, I suppose I could say it's both bitter and very dry, with only the slightest hints of colour and sweetness, but then I'd start sounding like a right twerp. 'Buffalo ‘66' is the reason I care about films. I can't think of a better or simpler way to phrase it than that. I hope it does something for you, too.
'Buffalo ‘66' is out now on DVD (but not yet on Blu-ray).