Buffalo 66: Forced Solitude, Curse of Buffalo

In this paper, director Vincent Gallo‘s 1998 film Buffalo 66 is subjected to a descriptive content analysis and is approached in an amateur spirit, without academic competence, methodology or professionalism.

The story of Billy Brown is a story of loneliness. Like Pessoa, he created characters and constantly told their stories to someone. He gave up everyone for his first love Wendy Balsam, but she didn’t take him seriously, and since then Billy lost his trust in people and hope in humanity.

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Emerging from prison in the cold blues, wearing crimson boots and a not-so-warm jacket, Billy Brown is going home to take his revenge and see his family one last time. But first he has to use the restroom. In order to get out of the prison, where he is forced to be treated like a cog in a machine, to a life regulated by unwritten rules, and to go to the toilet, he has experienced events that could be the subject of a feature film.

Buffalo 66 © Cinépix Film Properties (CFP), Lions Gate Films, Muse Productions
Buffalo 66 © Cinépix Film Properties (CFP), Lions Gate Films, Muse Productions

Billy, who could hardly see what he needed in the restroom of the dance class, saw a woman who looked nothing like the women in the dance class, chubby, with nice breasts, wearing unsporty clothes, sullen, who heard Billy swearing and warned him to speak properly. Dear Billy showed that he didn’t take her seriously by using pejorative expressions and then asked, excuse me, ma’am, do you have any change, because he was going to call home and let her know he was coming. The charming lady said she did, Billy asked again if he could have it, the charming lady said yes, Billy asked her in a scolding tone if he could have it now, the charming lady said yes again, without breaking her tone, and gave Billy his money. Billy went to the pay phone with the money.

The charming woman – Layla – eavesdropped on Billy’s conversation on the phone and concluded that this conversation was very sad for Billy. Because on the phone was the most uncaring mother he had ever met, and Billy was clumsily telling her lies. Layla felt sorry for Billy.

Billy, who was going to see his family, needed Wendy Balsam, who was his wife. And, of course, the person for this role was Layla, as a matter of dramatic fiction. Billy, who forced Layla to play the role of Wendy Balsam, had to fulfill his role as a spy and husband in front of his family. Layla would often laugh at Billy for ‘kidnapping’ Layla to play Wendy Balsam. But as I said, Layla felt sorry for him and saw something beautiful in him, so she agreed to go with him and play the role of his wife.

Buffalo 66: Compulsory Solitude, Curse of Buffalo

In this opus magnum [1], Vincent Gallo, director, screenwriter and star of Buffalo 66, in fact reflected his own life to a large extent, and says that he grew up in a family like Brown’s. Indifferent, hateful and uncaring. When Billy and Layla showed up at his parents’ door, there was a lot of nonsense going on inside, there were parents yelling and screaming at each other. They weren’t fighting, but it wasn’t normal communication, Billy was in the grip of restlessness again, he had to stop and rest before entering, because he had been so comfortable in prison for 5 years not hearing these voices, but now he had to step into this hell again.

In fact, logically, she should never have entered that house. Because what was he going to do with people who hadn’t and wouldn’t fulfill their duty as a parent, it would have been more logical to take his revenge and end his life. But as one learns everything, one also learns and seeks belonging to a family, Billy wanted to feel the concept of family, of being loved and valued for the last time, that was why he insisted on it.

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These too-creepy-to-be-true parents welcomed Billy and, more so, his beloved wife with joy. The mother was inexplicably obsessed with the Buffalo team, the father was an absurd construct who remembered his wife when he was hungry and otherwise went about his business. Neither of them had a shred of love, but they had to behave like a family in front of their guests.

There was an Italian dish for dinner, which was a variation of a cockroach, and Layla, who was a vegetarian, was going to eat it to show her love for Billy. At the table they could actually settle accounts. Billy could have confronted them about everything they did, but he didn’t say anything, they ate. Not only that, they went back in time. They talked about Billy’s ‘lost’ dog. Billy, normally holding the knife, was confronted with his father’s accusation of injury, tensions rose, and in the arguments, both the mother and the father took it out on Billy.

What Anne said made not only Billy and Layla hate her, but also the audience. The woman who strangely never missed a game of the Buffalo 66‘s missed a Buffalo game in 1966 because she had given birth to Billy that day, and things didn’t go well for Buffalo after that, and that’s why his mother looked at Billy with snake eyes and said, “I wish I’d never given birth to you. I guess that’s something you don’t say to any human being without exception. But his mother was a strange person, she forgot what she said.

Buffalo 66 © Cinépix Film Properties (CFP), Lions Gate Films, Muse Productions
Buffalo 66 © Cinépix Film Properties (CFP), Lions Gate Films, Muse Productions

A few scenes from the past, Layla telling about meeting Billy, Billy’s accomplishments, Billy’s missions abroad, etc. and they were able to finish that night. They left the house, Billy again couldn’t find what he hoped for, again cursed his luck. Now there was only one thing to do, destroy the player who had cost him five years.

Again, the Buffalo team was coming after Billy. 5 years ago, Billy did what no smart man would do, he bet a lot of money on a game Buffalo was sure to lose, I don’t know why he did it, maybe he thought he was going to get rich. But there was no money, so Billy owed the bookies. In return for his debt, the handsome and charismatic mob boss explained Billy’s stupidity in detail and told him to take the blame for the crime of a friend who had been in jail, and his debt would be canceled. Billy had to do it or he would die. He had lost 5 years of his life because of Buffalo, and Scott Woods in Buffalo was the reason for everything. He hadn’t played a decent game, rumor had it that he was involved in match-fixing. Anyway, he couldn’t have opened his current club any other way, so he was the cause of everything, Scott Woods was the one who had to die.

They were sitting in a café after leaving his parents’ house. A woman and a man sat next to them in their lustful state, when Billy noticed the woman he broke out in a cold sweat and looked away, but even though he looked away she continued to stare at him with her drunken and staring eyes. She recognized him but couldn’t remember who he was, she started to say who were you, I know you, Billy reluctantly said I’m Billy Brown, I went to school with you, she slowly remembered him. Yes, she said, I think he must have been in first grade, maybe later, I’m not sure, this woman was Wendy Balsam, she continued talking to Layla, drunk, then Billy got up from the table in a huff, Layla had hot chocolate, it hadn’t arrived yet.

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Billy didn’t wait, he left Layla there and went to carry out his plan, he went to the club. At the club they told him that Scoot Woods was not there and that he had arrived around 2am. Billy postponed his plan until 2 am.

He returned to Layla and apologized to her and they went to a hotel. He was supposed to wait until 2 am. Billy was uncomfortable being touched, he didn’t want Layla to touch him. It was an agonizing thing for Billy to even touch her, let alone think about anything else. Layla hoped they could get over it in this hotel room. When Billy went into the bathroom she forced herself into the tub with him, this was the closest she had ever been to him, quiet but not aggressive. When they got out of the tub and lay down on the bed, what we saw from the point of view of divine gravity was that Billy was on the edge of the bed, taking different positions but keeping his distance from Layla. Layla, on the other hand, was motionless, because it was meaningless for her to take a step towards Billy unless Billy took a step towards her. Billy approached Layla for a moment, assumed the fetal position and Layla hugged him. It was the hug Billy had been waiting for all his life.

Buffalo 66 © Cinépix Film Properties (CFP), Lions Gate Films, Muse Productions
Buffalo 66 © Cinépix Film Properties (CFP), Lions Gate Films, Muse Productions

There was love and tenderness and compassion in it. Layla didn’t want to leave Billy and Billy didn’t want to leave Layla. But she was going to carry out the plan she had been spinning in her head for 5 years and put herself out of her misery. Around 2 a.m. Billy said he was going down for coffee and Layla asked for hot chocolate. Billy said okay; Layla had a bad feeling and said please come back. Billy said he would, and he headed for the club, he was going to kill Scott Woods and then shoot himself in the head.

He walks into the club, he sees Scott Woods, he’s having fun with the women. He saw the scene in front of him where he shot Woods. Then he saw the scene where he killed himself, and his parents were at his grave. The burial was done, they stayed there as was the custom. His mother was listening to the Buffalo game on the radio, his father was whining, and after a while he said he was hungry, that they had to leave, and they left Billy’s grave, perhaps never to return. Even in death Billy was not worthy of their love or pity. This made him very sad. So he stopped for a moment, in front of Woods, then said hello and left. He went to the pay phone, called his half-witted friend Goon, told him that he hadn’t carried out the plan, that Woods seemed like a nice guy and that he had met a very beautiful woman. He went to the café below the hotel, bought a coffee and a hot chocolate and returned peacefully to Layla who was waiting for him.

Buffalo’s curse turned into a blessing after Billy’s difficult life. This blessing was rewarded with Layla and Billy received the love, compassion and mercy he deserved in a very generous way. He looked at the world like a normal person, he felt love for the world instead of hatred, he wanted Layla to touch him, to hold his hand as if she would never let go, Billy finally found the peace he was looking for and closed the book on his restlessness, perhaps never to open it again.

Further Reading:

[1] Magnum Opus, Wikipedia. 

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