'Round midnight

I don't know...sometimes you just don't feel like spending your whole weekend lost in a drunken haze, propping yourself up against the bar while a really crappy band blows your eardrums out through the back of your brain. Sometimes sitting in a late-night, chi-chi restaurant, making fleeting eye contact with some quasi-attractive stranger across the room feels as vacant as it is. So sometimes, when the clock strikes midnight, it may actually be nicer to duck into the cool, dark recesses of a movie theater and take in a flick. Respite from yourself, if anything. And no, not that kind of flick.

The Inwood Theater continues its Midnight Movie Series, and to its credit, instead of pulling from the archives the obvious moth-eaten reels (Eraserhead, Rocky Horror), the beloved art house ups the ante with fresher meat--films you maybe haven't seen yet but meant to when they were first-run fare, films that fit the after-dark profile well. And there's not just one--the Inwood offers three to choose from on any given weekend night.

This weekend, the Inwood offers Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, (if you don't know by now, don't ask; just see it.), Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss (still quite new to Dallas screens), and Buffalo 66. Let's concentrate on the last, one of the most fascinating, self-indulgent movies to spring from indie purgatory in years, a film so hyped and ballyhooed it made the covers of Artforum, The Village Voice, and Filmmaker upon its release this summer.

Vincent Gallo, the greasy, brooding wonder from Palookaville, has crowned himself King Brat of Hollywood with his constant blowhard boasts and impetuous tantrums. (When one New York film critic defined the actor as the guy in the Calvin Klein ads and nothing more, he came back at her with death threats). Nonetheless, he's crafted one hell of a conversation piece with Buffalo 66, a film he wrote, produced, and of course, stars in, along with ingenue-of-the-moment, the smurf-turned-predator Christina Ricci.

Gallo plays Billy Brown, a petty criminal just sprung from a prison sentence (up in Gallo's hometown of Buffalo, a relentlessly grimy, dank city if going by the actor's perspective). He kidnaps a tap dancer (Ricci) and forces the ripe youngster to act like his wife in order to convince his own bizarre parents that he's actually been trapped in a normal existence these past years. Anjelica Huston and Ben Gazzara play Mom and Dad with wretched oddball glee--she a Buffalo Bills fanatic who still resents her son's birth as the event that caused her to miss the Bills' glorified Super Bowl win, he a lecherous ex-crooner who systematically berates and ignores his son. All along, Billy plots to kill Scotty Woods, the Bills place-kicker who blew a routine field goal that lost the game that put Billy in the slammer for unpaid balance to his smarmy bookie (Mickey Rourke).

Gallo's Billy is as sympathetic, neurotic, and magnetic as he is irritating. For every insult he slings at his smitten captive, there's a counteractive scene that makes you root for the guy--a balance of character often missing from the anti-hero films of more seasoned filmmakers. The first 15 minutes alone--a sequence where Billy desperately has to pee but can't find a bathroom, is just comic and painful enough to earn it a place in indie-film lore. The raw editing and visual flatness only add to the movie's charm, but the feeling that the whole could either collapse in a black hole of frivolousness or explode in visceral catharsis all rests on Gallo's narrow shoulders.

Thus far, the jury hasn't reached an agreement. An actor taking us for a self-absorbed ride through his tortured soul, or an artist with a powerful vision of what a million-dollar film can be?

Skip the bar this weekend and decide for yourself.

--Christina Rees

Buffalo 66 plays midnight Friday and Saturday at the Inwood Theatre, 5458 W. Lovers Lane. Call (214) 352-6040.

 
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