Buffalo ‘66 (Directed by: Vincent Gallo) Buffalo ‘66 is Gallo’s ode to his childhood and hometown. Like most artists he writes from what he knows. Having moved to New York from an early age (around 17), for his directorial debut he went back to the city where he grew up, and even shot scenes in his real parents’ old house. Buffalo made him what he is, and still resonates deeply in him. He had enough emotional distance when he made the movie to be able to find the humor in it, but watching the movie it’s clear that his past still haunts him, “It’s an open wound”(1), as Roger Ebert describes it in his review. Spite, resentment, revenge and anger seem to fuel Gallo’s energy; they’re his motivation to create. He is infamous for his public antics, his idiosyncrasy and statements like “'I stopped painting in 1990 at the peak of my success just to deny people my beautiful paintings. And I did it out of spite.'” A one man army, nobody praises and hypes Gallo more than Gallo himself. He’s never short of bravado and macho, like a kid forever competing with everybody else to be the coolest, most hands-on and authentic. And yet in his art, his stories and songs, we see a fragile man, haunted by his past, broken by the hardships of love. He presents himself that way, his heart perennially broken and sad, looking for revenge or closure. He’s a bitter man, but he is sad in style, of course. His looks and sense of fashion and “cool” are integral to understanding what he does and where he is coming from. His cult of personality, gigantic ego and vanity inform his work a great
deal; it’s his approach, what makes him different. Gallo is an artist that operates as an outsider, but looks like a rock star. He understands that to stand out, to be noticed, an artist has to create his own hype, his own legend; his persona is as much a creation as his work. Which is why he likes to keep people guessing, and building a mystery around him. Provoke people and they’ll pay attention, elaborate on your own past, make things up, and you’ll appear more interesting. Consider the scene in Buffalo ‘66 where Ben Gazzara’s character performs “Fools Rush In” for Layla (Christina Ricci). The voice we hear is actually an old recording of Vincent Gallo’s father singing the classic song. In 1998, after the release of the movie he told Village Voice journalist Jerry Talmer that he himself had recorded his father, praising his own engineering skills: “So 10 years ago,” says 36-year-old Vincent, “I'm driving across the country in a car with one hundred of my cassettes, and at the end of the B side of some punk-rock thing there's this old, dirty, sun-baked tape, and I hear that “Fools Rush In” and I'm stunned at my father's talent and my 13-year-old engineering skills. And that's the inspiration for the whole movie…”(2) In 1992 though, he wrote an article for Sound Practices magazine where he tells a different story: “I remember my Grandma's house. It was small and it had a smell, not a good smell or a bad smell just a certain smell. There was no TV, no radio - just this old wind up 78 machine with this big metal horn that had flowers painted on it. Underneath in a shelf, she had 9 records: three by Domenico Modugno- you know, the guy who wrote Volare, four Caruso records, and her two
favorites - one by Dean Martin and one by my father singing "Fools Rush In". Before my Pops went to prison, he was a nite club singer. He got to record one single.”(3) Wouldn’t he mention the fact that he recorded his father’s single at age 13 on an article for a DIY sound magazine if it was true? And if his grandmother was listening to it on vinyl, clearly it wasn’t a homemade recording. But even if he’s contrived, small minded and petty, he seems to be self aware enough to be able to not only talk about it straight, but to also make art out of it, and if a movie like Buffalo 66 ultimately works is because Gallo can find the humor in his own story and persona. He has to be poking...
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