Buffalo 66

(Note: Region 1 NTSC version)
The last half an hour of "Buffalo 66" is great. It is a shame you have to sit through the rest of the film to get there. Vincent Gallo, in acting, co-writing and directing, demonstrates much talent, but not consistently enough to save this film.

There is enough plot in "Buffalo 66" to make a good short story, but it does not bear the attention Gallo devotes to it too well. The development of a limited plot is spread out by the cinematographic equivalent of avant-garde noodling. Not that some of that isn't pretty good. At one point, while the characters are at a bowling alley, for little apparent reason a spotlight comes down on the heroine, Christina Ricci, for a restrained tap dance routine to King Crimson's "Moonchild". It is a very effective scene, yet one devoid of connection to the rest of the film.

A multiply split screen approach, reminiscent of Peter Greenaway's "The Pillow Book", is occasionally used and proves to be effective, bombarding the viewer with images, but much of this film consists of lengthy, quiet, slow scenes with repetitive dialogue. Perhaps this is all a gritty realism, but it is about as interesting as watching grit being scattered on roads. For much of the time, Gallo shows us unpleasant people, usually doing unpleasant things, with the message. It all becomes rather self-indulgent.

While a pair of scissors could usefully have been taken to most of the early parts of this film, the end hots up somewhat and we (finally!) reach a much better climax. Our hero enters a nightclub to Chris Squire's first bass solo in "Heart of the Sunrise". With a David Lynch atmosphere, Squire's bass is a menacing backdrop and Howe's subsequent fast runs build the tension further. I often think of "Heart of the Sunrise" as a light and fluffy piece after the cold and dark "South Side of the Sky" or the angular "5% for Nothing" on the same album, but Gallo has spotted much more in the song.

Not to give away the plot, but a later instrumental section from "Heart of the Sunrise", with Howe and Wakeman duetting, then serves to release the tension later in the scene and the film soon ends to the first strains of "Sweetness", which runs over the credits. While the film stops "Heart of the Sunrise" before any lyrics, the trailer for the film ends instead with the line "Love comes to you and you follow", which sums up the relationship between Gallo and Ricci and the whole plot of the film.

Most of the rest of the music is original, by Gallo himself: effective enough, if not outstanding. Yet, for a man who so effectively uses three prog tunes, Gallo oddly prefers silence for much of the film; quite jarringly so at times.

I do not recommend "Buffalo 66", but I think I will be interested to see what Gallo does next and I would certainly hire him to make a video for King Crimson...

Henry Potts, revised 23 Feb 99

Originally posted to alt.music.yes and rec.music.progressive.

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