January 22, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST

Even the trailer for Vincent Gallo’s directorial debut, Buffalo ’66 — a series of stills set to Yes’ jittery ”Heart of the Sunrise” — was more inventive than most of last year’s films, and the movie fulfilled its promise. It’s a crackpot male fantasy — lonely loser redeemed by a woman’s unconditional adoration — made vivid via endless flights of fancy. Characters perform in spotlights in mid-scene; a death is visualized as a series of gory tableaux. It’s all somehow both familiar and dazzling, just as Christina Ricci’s kidnapped tap student, forced to pose as the protagonist’s wife for his horrifically indifferent parents, is somehow both nondescript and heartbreaking. Narcissism has rarely been so compelling. A

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