Charles Bukowski was a
poet-laureate of the downtrodden, a bard of the barflies, a minstrel with a
numbing series of dead-end jobs. Bukowski's words brought beauty and
nobility to the hardships of the forgotten.
However, his work has only
met with limited success when translated to film. The German film
Crazy Love was underrated and mostly unseen. The 1987 film Barfly
(which is the only film in which the late writer actually wrote the
screenplay) started with the pitch-perfect casting of Mickey Rourke as the
writer – but otherwise was a bit of a dull disappointment.
Factotum, Matt Dillon is also a perfect choice of an actor to play
Bukowski (through his alter-ego of Hank Chinaski.) Dillon may be a bit
too traditionally handsome for the role, (Bukowski was a pock-marked,
drink-bloated bear of a man) but as an actor he can portray downtrodden
disinterest and booze-soaked desperation with realism and subtlety.
In the new film
Despite this, Factotum –
while an interesting look at a lifestyle totally devoid of hope or anything
but the basest of desires – reminds us why Bukowski does not really translate
The film is essentially an
hour and a half of a smart-but-completely-unmotivated man: a) taking on
menial jobs and getting fired from them, b) having sex with and then arguing with two similarly damaged
women (Lili Taylor and Marisa Tomei), c) getting into fist fights, d)
trying to scam some money, e) acknowledging that he really only wants to get drunk to the square people of
the world, f) explaining he is a writer to disbelieving people and then g) ending up in an unending series of bar stools staring
at a glass.
The dialogue and rhythms of
the film have an undeniable eccentric uniqueness. Some of the
narration is gorgeously street-poetic.
Problem is, watching
Factotum, you can't help but think it would all be more interesting on
the page than on the screen. (12/06)
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Posted: December 24, 2006.