Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Notes on Vincent Gallo

I don't spend much time thinking about Vincent Gallo (b. 1961), and when I see him in a good film, such as this year's Essential Killing (which is essential viewing), where in a starring role he doesn't have a word of dialogue, I can even briefly forget about what a jerk and egomaniac he is. But then I saw his website. It's hard to know whether to take him seriously or not. It's obvious he takes himself very seriously indeed.

I'm still not exactly sure what he's famous for (or what he should be famous for). Sure, he's been a model for Calvin Klein. For a while he was a painter. He's been in a few unknown bands; one of which, Gray, was with a then-unknown Jean Michel Basquiat. Since then he's released some albums, mainly of film music – alarmingly, I find myself owning one of them: Recordings of Music for Film; actually fairly pleasant if monotonous tinkerings. In the extensive, amusingly candid liner notes ('the chubby film student girl paid me $15 to fuck her, clean her apartment, and do the music for her'), as well as consisting of much blagging and slagging off, it mentions that by 1983 he owned 5,000 records, which, if true, is possibly the most impressive fact about Vincent Gallo I've ever read. He is currently in a band called RRIICCEE.

He's been the director of three films, one a near masterpiece, Buffalo 66; one a disaster, Brown Bunny, and one presumably so bad he's decided to shelve it (Promises Written in Water, 2010), along with, apparently, every film he makes from now on. He's also an actor (Goodfellas, Arizona Dream, Palookaville, Coppola's Tetro a few years ago). But even after this impressive and interesting resume, I still think he's most famous for being a narcissistic, weird, offensive*, outspoken jerk. And then there's his website, 'for Vincent Gallo by Vincent Gallo'. Looking like it was designed in the late 1990s, it's mainly pretty standard, consisting of an extensive CV of his acting, directing, music, artwork, writing and photography credits.

Then there's the merchandising section, where you can seemingly buy everything he owns (at a price), from a 'Good Brown Hat', signed, $750 (sold out) to, er, his sperm, for $1,000,000. If, ladies, a million bucks is out of your price range (and assuming you find Gallo irresistible – not everybody does, it seems), for a mere $50,000 you can book an evening or weekend with the man to fulfil your 'wish, dream or fantasy'. Other artifacts range from a childhood bedspread – 'only one available' – still available for $3,120 to a 'spectacular' signed photo from the set of 'his masterpiece' Buffalo 66 for $1,575. And T-shirts, wallets, gloves, helmets, purses, girls skirts, books, paintings, tables, drumsticks, an inflatable Charles Manson… all signed by Gallo. And worryingly, mostly sold out. Or so it says.

The classified section of his website is almost even more bizarre, consisting of his want lists: mainly old Western Electric hi-fi equipment, microphones and guitars. From the liner notes of Recordings of Music for Film I guessed he was pretty into his recording equipment by the way he geekily listed each item he owned: 'a Western Electric 91A amplifier, a Marantz Model 1 and a Western Electric 757 speaker… a Garrard 301 turntable with an Ortofon arm and cartridge'.

Cool or fool, geek or freak? All and more, more or less. Maybe he's lonely. But his ego is that far ahead of his talent that he reminds me of M. Night Shyamalan.

Why Vincent Gallo? is a blog that unfortunately doesn't answer its own question.

*When critic Roger Ebert called The Brown Bunny the worst film in the history of Cannes, Gallo responded by calling him a 'fat pig with the physique of a slave trader'. Gallo then apparently cursed Ebert with cancer, which, er, Ebert actually now has.

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