Vincent Gallo's acting doesn't impress: he has a herky-jerky intensity and little else. But as a writer-director, he's so full of intelligent ideas we end up with a project that overflows.
And that's a good thing in this case. Gallo obviously thinks of himself as beginning a career as one of the greats of film, so has modeled this effort on `Breathless.'
The basic idea isn't fresh: exploring the notion of fantasy by folding how an on-screen character bends reality with how we do as viewers, viewing the very same thing.
Here, the dialog is monologue. Here, instead of the direct reference to films, it is to football. Because the notion of self-referential films-about-films has been so well trod, this snaps it back to the original crispness. Huston absorbs that kind of football that goes past obsession to form a complete framework for life. As with the film notion dealt within `Breathless,' it penetrates fate, and colors everything we see.
Here, the girl is a dancer. Ricci has never exploited her Cupiedoll allure more directly than in this project. I'm thinking of watching `Rollercoaster to Hell' just to get a glimpse of the costume designer. Ricci's makeup and dress is so close to edge it shows real skill.
In `Breathless' we were treated to a few cinematic devices that underscored the fact that it was a film we were watching. Those seem tepid now, and have to be pointed out as fresh for the time. Gallo has to work with a newer, bolder vocabulary, one in which it is now nearly impossible to exaggerate. But he does succeed with the table at `dinner.' This must have been numerous physical tables. And the bowling alley tap dance is the center of the fantasy. Couldn't help equating it to a very similar bowling alley dance routine by the Coens in `Lebowski' that was identically intended: Truffault-annotation on the sexuality of the target. In that case it was the ever more nuanced Julianne Moore.
But that was outrageous and silly, and this is gentle, poignant. Similar intentions but the sweetness of this pudgy icon obviously moving to a recorded tap is one that stays -- one that sticks in the mind.
Another attempt at cinematic self-reference is less successful. At the end Billy `sees' his intended action. Some of this is `bullet-time,' some slow-motion, some freezeframe, some `flashforward' after the manner of previously established flashbacks. Together with Gallo's own music this would have worked better if we hadn't been so coddled in letting us know it was imagined. If `Taxi Driver' could get away with an imagined ending, why not `Buffalo?'
If Gallo can escape the Woody syndrome and not insist on putting himself and his life on screen, he might turn out to be one of our talented writer/directors. This takes too many shortcuts for us to be sure there is talent here or whether we are watching a singular, well-formed scream therapy. But its a gem. I compare it to `American History X` and `Slingblade' which were wholly actorvisions. This starts with the eye, and has the actor subservient. As it should be.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 4: Worth watching.
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