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New York Stories
At the movies

Wandering around New York City is almost like being in a movie - all the time. The places, the streets, the buildings, the people - everything's like it's motion pictures. It's a perfect place to watch movies. Even when you get seated inside a theatre you get to feel the pulse of the big city. Yes, it's true! Visit Angelika Film Center at Houston Street. Buy a ticket, go downstairs, get in and find a seat. Soon you'll find out that there's a double edge in underground films. The Subway's got a tight schedule... Anyway, here's three stories, and they're all highly recommended. The action takes place in Buffalo, NY, in Queens, New York City, and on Manhattan, NYC.

Buffalo 66
Lions Gate Films Inc./Muse Productions, USA 1998
Written and directed by Vincent Gallo
Music composed by V. Gallo (plus King Crimson and others)
Starring: Vincent Gallo, Christina Ricci, Anjelica Huston, Ben Gazzara, Kevin Corrigan, Rosanna Arquette, Mickey Rourke, Jan-Michael Vincent, plus others.

Buffalo 66 is a dark and strange comedy signed by Vincent Gallo, known from films such as Palookaville and Arizona Dream (later this year he can be seen in Mika Kaurismäki's L.A. Without a Map as well as Roland Joffé's Goodbye, lover). It's just so great to watch Mr. Gallo. His crooky face, his awkward movements. He's as always a great low-life character, someone on the odd side of life. Like when we meet him in Buffalo 66 as Billy Brown, just as he's released from prison. On his way to his hometown, Buffalo, to see his parents after "being away, working on something top-secret for the government" for 5 years. Billy kidnaps Layla (Ricci - who made her break-through some years ago as the little girl in Mermaids, and as the spooky Wednesday Addams in The Addams Family) to pose as his wife. Layla plays the role, and she likes it. In the house of Billy's parents (Huston and Gazzara), both football-crazy (Buffalo Bills) and stir-crazy, we get the impression of what sort of childhood Billy's been through. Presented in some cunning flash-backs, we get the pre-story told.

Billy's looking for revenge. The "reason" for his 5-year-sentence is Buffalo Bills, or the Bills' kicker, who missed a last second field-goal against N.Y. Giants in the Superbowl finals. The team lost, and so did Billy. He'd put up a $ 10,000 bet, and to get even with the bookie (Rourke) Billy confessed a crime and did time for some gangster friends of the sleazy bookie.

Go see the film to get the rest of it. Vincent Gallo has made a very entertaining directorial debut. The story isn't the most original, but the cast and the acting is brilliant all the way. Gallo and Ricci is great together, as the emotionally fucked-up boy and the strange and caring girl. My favourite scene: the two of them inside the photo booth. Check it out!

Henry Fool
True Fiction Pictures/Shooting Gallery Films, USA 1997
Written and directed by Hal Hartley
Music composed by H. Hartley
Starring: Thomas Jay Ryan, James Urbaniak, Parker Posey, James Saito, Kevin Corrigan, plus others.

Since Simple Men I've been disappointed with Hal Hartley's filmmaking. Now it's time for Henry Fool, and, yes, it's a good film. Good, close to very good. I can understand why this year's Cannes festival awarded Henry Fool for best screenplay.

Simon Grim (James Urbaniak) is a young garbage man, without a social life. He's quiet, he writes poetry, and lives with his mother Mary (Maria Porter) and his sister Fay (Parker Posey - who also had roles in Amateur and Flirt). Mary's like a zombie, being on heavy medication, while Fay's main interest is to meet handsome boys and get laid. Simon is the glass-eyed nerd, the one everyone likes to beat and kick. His life changes the day Henry (Thomas Jay Ryan - who makes a powerful screendebut!) moves into the family's basement and life. Henry is a drifter, an ex-con, and quite a rough type, who brings a pile of notebooks - his unfinished "memoirs". He encourages Simon in his writing, being sort of a teacher for the young man, and slowly the disciple's explicit writings gets attention from the world. Simon's receiving the chances Henry's been dreaming of.

Henry Fool must be Hartley's most ambitious, and maybe also funniest movie. He knows how to present low-toned one-liners with a punch, and also to use the un-said to underline his points. There's a mixture of fine humor and extreme tragedy within the film. Yet I find the last part of the movie a bit strange and un-fitting. In sort of like an epilouge, we meet the characters a few years later (due to an incident I don't want to disclose here), and, well, there's a departure to...Sweden. A bit corny and far-fetched, but surely tounge-in-cheek by Hal Hartley? You shouldn't miss the opportunity to see this one.

The Last Days Of Disco
Castle rock Entertainment/Westerly Films, USA 1998
Written and directed by Whit Stillman
Starring: Chloë Sevigny, Kate Beckinsale, Christopher Eigeman, Matthew Keeslar, MacKensie Astin, Matt Ross, plus others.

It seems like Whit Stillman has gotten into a four year cycle of film-making. The brilliant Metropolitan came in 1990. Barcelona, which I found just about OK, was released in 1994. And now he's back with his description of the death of disco, The Last Days Of Disco. Strangely (luckily) enough there isn't much dancing in it.

Manhattan, the mid-80's: The two friends, Alice (Chloë Sevigny - a young and talented actress who made her debut in Kids) and Charlotte (Kate Beckinsale - seen in Shoooting Fish and Much Ado About Nothing) frequent a hip disco club hoping to find Mr. Nice, they're colleagues in the same publishing company, and they decide to become room-mates. Alice is the nice one, Charlotte is somewhat bitchy and evil. (Quote: "In physical terms, I'm cuter than you, but you're much nicer than I am.") Together with their circle of friends and new relations (love - hate - love) they hang out on this disco-place, because it's hip to do so. While discussing the philosophic aspects of life, and experiencing both the sweet dreams and harsh reality.

As always Stillman has come up with a talkative film with an ironic twist and a witty charm. The Last Days of Disco doesn't have much of a story. It just takes place...during the last days of the disco-era, showing the decadence, describing the surfacial people who surfed the "happy days" before safe-sex was an issue and before the yuppies met extinction (did they?). But it's fun to watch.

A lot of the actors/actresses have worked in Stillman's earlier films. Chris Eigeman f.i., who plays Des (the club manager, who tells his "girlfriends" he's gay as an excuse for breaking up, just so that he can move on to the next one), starred both in Metropolitan and Barcelona. He's a real expert doing really annoying characters. The players do well, the dialouge works perfect, and the film has got plenty of humourous sequences. Definitely worth seeing, while dancing.

Copyright © 1998 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

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