Sunday, September 24, 2006


I saw a real poet's movie today. Factotum, which is loosely based around a handful of the books and writings of the bloke on the left. If you haven't seen this movie dig it out. Matt Dillon does a perfect Bukowski in the role of Buk's alter ego Chinaski...Hank, a very harsh judge of Hollywood 's efforts to portray his characters, would have loved this one. The movie, like the book from which it takes its title, follows Chinaski from one manual job to another. He loses each one because of his dislike for rules, and his drinking: when Hank wants a beer, he has to have one--even if it's half way through the day and his work van will make him a sitting target for a supervisor searching the streets for a wayward employee. Why is he like this? Because he's an alcoholic? Yes. Because he's a rebel? Yes. His stern German father pushed him that way. But mostly he follows his own rules because he's a poet. That's how he defines himself, and for Chinaski (as with Buk), there is no compromise. If you're gonna do it, Chinaski quotes from a Buk poem at the end of the film, watching a pole dancer, unaware that his first story has been accepted by Black Sparrow, then you have to go all the way.

Which Buk did, famously so, and it payed off in a way he could not have imagined when he first started out.. Generations since have thought they had to be drunks, write the same tough verse about whores and the bars. It has become dull. But Factotum fantastically evokes when it flamed gloriously, in the mouth of the only man who could have made it work. This is the one that young readers should watch to turn them on to the heroism of greatness.

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