Vincent Gallo‘s face was familiar but it took some digging to find out where. I my case it is more likely that I recalled him for being in the movie Arizona Dream than being a Calvin Klein model. After seeing Buffalo’66 and reading that this was his semi-autobiographical film I had to look him up. His own website doesn’t have a biography, but his Wikipedia page reads like a who is who in the New York art scene. He played in bands with Basquiat, Lukas Haas, Sean Lennon. He painted, directed, wrote, acted… he is a renaissance man.
He, indeed, did grow up in Buffalo, where the film was set and shot. But as far as I can tell he was never in prison, so that’s where the similarities end. The story is deceptively simple. Innocent guy, played by Gallo himself, comes out of prison after five years as a nervous wreck. He kidnaps a young woman and takes her to her unsuspecting (of him having been in prison) parents’ house to show her off as his wife. She, played by the 18 year old Christina Ricci, goes along with him and the story and takes a liking of him. He doesn’t recognize the affection and than cannot handle it. Besides being unable to relate to emotions he is too focused on finding the guy who put him in prison, fighting the demons his parents represent for him, and reconnecting via phone to his only friend, who is a bit slow.
For me it sounds like a typical Eastern European movie. But it is an independent American movie, hence the kidnapping aspect. That kind of action, along with bank robbery, only becomes popular in Eastern European cinema in the lat 5-10 years. In the 80’s it was practically unheard of. The bleak tone, the black and white photography the dilapidated surroundings, the slow soundtrack, the unlikable characters, the lack of happy ending, the subdued fights, these are all characteristics to Eastern European art movies too, so I felt right at home with this one. It was depressingly great. Now I want to check out Gallo’s other work.