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Vincent Gallo: Artist, Auteur, or Just Plain Annoying?, Part II

Vincent Gallo: Artist, Auteur, or Just Plain Annoying?, Part II

Vincent Gallo: Artist, Auteur, or Just Plain Annoying?,
Part II

by Tim LaTorre

In Part II of our transcript from a Q & A session held with Vincent
Gallo and Brian Rose after a screening of “Buffalo ’66” at New York
City’s DGA theater on May 21, Gallo goes beyond the usual sound bites he
consciously produces, uncovering the breadth of his knowledge on
filmmaking, fashion, photography and art. While the failure of his film
to win the Dramatic Competition at Sundance this year and access to the
Cannes competition make it obvious that he has fucked himself
politically by speaking his mind, watching his film makes it clear that
his is an exciting and original new voice.

Rose: For me, one of the most striking things was the visual aspects of
the film where every single scene seems to have such an incredible text.
Not just focus, but it’s your framing, the way your shots are composed…

Gallo: Yeah, there’s this girl named Tamra Davis, wife of Mike D from
the Beastie Boys, and she got to make films. Who knows how? She made
awful films. And she came up to me once and . . . you know, not only did
I invent the film stock and invent the processing and shoot five days
without a cinematographer and storyboard so methodically — When people
come up to you after you make a film like this and they say, “Really
great film, you’re really lucky, great cinematography”. What does that
mean? You know, what does that mean exactly? It’s so pretentious, it’s
such a pretentious thing now that one needs to, when one makes a film,
really avoid being seduced by the delusion, the deluded continuity
between the narrative, the performers, the production design, the
cinematography, the lighting . . . they need to have one aesthetic point
of view, one sensibility, one context. And to do that, one really has to
take extreme control. I don’t think I’ll every be able to have as much
control over my films as a filmmaker as I did in this film because I
won’t have a producer that’s on drugs, lost, so he’ll leave me alone to
do whatever I want. I won’t have a deal from the Director’s Guild, which
really helped me control my director’s cut. It might not work out so
conveniently the next time.

With the cinematography, my cinematographer was brilliant. The real
superstar in the movie for me visually was my gaffer, my lighting guy,
and my first AC [assistant cameraman]. That’s why I chose [in the
credits] to really identify each member of the technical crew as a
special person. But one puts together a team of camera people and
lighting people, and electricians, when the people who do those jobs are
really good at it and they’re directed into a very narrow focus, I feel
most comfortable watching that type of cinema. I’m distracted by most of
contemporary cinema because it seems superficially shot, the visual
fetishes are without context or point of view or aesthetic
sensibilities. You know, you go on a movie set and the cinematographer
is looking around to make something look good and it’s inconsistent. So,
in this film . . I had never made a film before but I had a real clear
idea of what my movie should look like. I had a very accommodating
cinematographer and lighting guy.

Rose: Did you have that vision even when you were selling the script?
Because it seems that it is so completely focused of what that vision

Gallo: It’s because my aesthetic sensibility has evolved over many
years. I’ve done other things, I was a painter for many years, showing
at a gallery in New York City. All my framing or my composition or my
lighting sensibilities or texture sensibilities or color sensibilities,
they were pretty consistent over a long period of time. So it was very
easy for me to adapt them into cinema.

The truth is that aesthetically I was proudly most influenced by
contemporary fashion photography, more than contemporary cinema. I feel
that even though a lot of fashion photographers are doing work that
maybe doesn’t have impact culturally, maybe there isn’t a real emotional
impact. But there is a visual aesthetic impact that is very
sophisticated. When I would work with some very good fashion
photographers and I had got to meet their production designers, their
lighting people . . . I found my lighting guy, my camera guy, my 1st AC,
my makeup girl, my production designer all on fashion shoots working
with Richard Avedon or Steven Meisel or people like that.

So, it was very important that all the people who worked on the film
creatively had a very sophisticated sensibility in that way. I know that
that sounds weird or half fake, but in this period in evolution people
in fashion are more sophisticated, in my experience, than the people
I’ve worked with in cinema. The movie job, in general . . the makeup
girl is like a beauty parlor level. The costume girl, she buys a couple
of shirts at Goodwill and she thinks that is really shocking. Production
designers, they get magazine cut-outs and . . . there’s no real
evolution. You don’t feel like there’s a real point-of-view, a
sophisticated point-of-view. In fashion, there can be that thing . . . I
have a couple of photographer friends here tonight and I’m more excited
about them seeing my movie than all of the filmmakers that I know. They
can appreciate the methodical sensibility that you seem to be talking
about more than other filmmakers. Especially when you go to independent
film festivals or a circus like that. It’s very rare that I’m excited by
someone’s aesthetic point-of-view in cinema. All low budget movies seem
to have a . . . I love this word “independent”, it doesn’t mean anything.
There’s good movies and bad movies, movies that aren’t expensive and
movies that are. In the . . what we call independent . . but just the
lower budgeted films one would think that you have the most opportunity
to be radical and severe and groundbreaking and innovative, but people
that I’ve worked with in those circles seem to be the least interested
in exploring the possibilities of cinema. Especially the producers and
the people who do the posters and who cut the trailers. It’s
very unexciting and it doesn’t feel like I have a group of younger
filmmakers or filmmakers working in lower budgets where I feel like
we’re really redefining the evolution of pop culture. Everybody’s
looking to have a hit movie so they can make a studio movie or
something. It’s very infrequent that I felt excited by that sort of

So when I got my chance to direct a film, I felt that it might be my
only chance of my whole life and I obsessed on every detail. I don’t
know if I’m completely thrilled with everything in the film, but at
least I feel responsible for everything so there’s no pain. When I watch
the film there’s no pain the normal way I feel pain when I try to watch
movies that I was in . . . something like that . . . you know what I’m

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