The Legend of Vincent Gallo

Vincent Gallo has done a million things. In the 80s he was in the art and music scene of New York City. That probably explains his quirky, dark onscreen personality, but who knows.

Eventually he became an actor and you can find him in big films as small characters (for ex: Good Fellas). I first starting taking notice of Vincent Gallo when he was in PALOOKAVILLE. It’s a funny little film about three losers who can’t seem to get crime right. Aptly named, it’s more a character study of hometown boys who never left Palookaville. Gallo and William Forsythe (a fave) were standouts. 

Not content to take orders from other directors, in ’98 Gallo made and starred in his own film, Buffalo 66. This fantastic film is 100% Gallo. It’s slow-paced with not a lot of action, and the family dysfunction is laughable to the point of ridiculous, but Gallo’s character, Billy, keeps you watching.

There’s a great weird scene with Christina Ricci doing some slow tap steps (Is that even possible?) to a dreamy sound track that seems to have nothing to do with anything else in the film, but is quite lovely nonetheless.

Billy is both annoying and somehow worthy of sympathy. He tries to be cruel, but just isn’t hard enough. He’s the loser that gets kicked around and probably deserves it, but has a heart and so is worthy of redemption. The film is ultimately satisfying when he does, in fact, redeem himself in the end.

Gallo’s second foray into doing everything for himself, The Brown Bunny, is less accessible. The scenes are long and provide little information. Some have prolonged shots of only a part of a face. They feel self-indulgent and you’re wondering what it means if anything. You keep wondering what is this story about? When is it going to get started? Why do I keep watching?

The payoff in the end, though — when all is revealed — makes it worth watching. Well that, and the explicit blowjob. I give Gallo credit for revealing himself, literally, in that way; putting himself in a sex scene. There’s so little male nudity in films, the scene is actually refreshing, even if it feels odd.

I love running across Vincent Gallo in out of the way big or little films, but these three are my favorites. His painful characterizations are not always easy to watch but they’re raw and truthful for that. I’m quite sure Gallo was not made for this world.

Long live the legend.

For more indie love, check out the Dust Nuggets trailer. Full film coming as soon as this here pandemic splits the scene.

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