Review: Barfly (1987)

>> Saturday, January 6, 2007

USA/C-97 m./Dir: Barbet Schroeder/Wr: Charles Bukowski/Cast: Mickey Rourke (Henry Chinaski), Faye Dunaway (Wanda), Alice Krige (Tully), Frank Stallone (Eddie)

Charles Bukowski, like many of the great writers of the 20th Century, was a boozer, lending him an insider’s view of the drunken underclass he celebrated in his poetry and prose. Bukowski’s world of stewbums and lushes was brought brilliantly to the screen in Barfly, a quirky, liquored love story, scripted by the master himself.

Mickey Rourke expertly mimics Bukowski’s voice and mannerisms as Henry Chinaski, a full time hooch hound who enjoys nothing more than spending his hours at the Skid Row dive, The Golden Horn, downing Scotch and trading bare-knuckled blows with the bartender, Eddie (Frank Stallone). When Henry encounters Wanda (Faye Dunaway), a floozy willing to sell herself for a drink, he realizes that he’s found his soul mate, but the romance is far from smooth. A rich magazine editor (Alice Krige) wants Henry for herself, forcing the Scotched scribbler to choose between a funded writer’s life and sloppy drunkenness with Wanda. Of course, he chooses the booze.

Although the tableau is packed with poverty, desperation, and filth, it never comes across as depressing; because these people are living the life of their choosing. As Henry puts it, “Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must live.” Keep an eye out for the real Bukowski who makes a cameo as--what else?--another barfly.

Drinks Consumed--Scotch (straight and with water), Beer, Whiskey (type unspecified, probably bourbon)

Intoxicating Effects
--Bravado, public disturbance, physical violence, staggering, stumbling, swearing, soused sex, hangover, the shakes, and round-buying


Potent Quotables--TULLY: Why don’t you stop drinking? Anybody can be a drunk.
HENRY: Anybody can be a non-drunk. It takes a special talent to be a drunk. It takes endurance. Endurance is more important than truth.

Video Availability
--Barfly was released on DVD (Warner Brothers), but it is now out-of-print and difficult to find. Used copies can occasionally be found through second-hand dealers at highly inflated prices.
As an alternative, the film can be streamed through Amazon Video On Demand or iReel.com.

Similarly Sauced Cinema
--Henry Chinaski returned in the form of Matt Dillon in Factotum (2005).


2 comments:

auftn January 7, 2007 at 11:41 PM  

Crap. I commented on the next day's post before reading this one... and inadvertantly re-quoted this movie.

I'm such a duff...

Rourke was a perfect Henry.

And, for the record, with my not having the "Booze Movies" knowledge that you have, I'd just have to say that this is probably one of the top 5 Booze movies of all time.

"Drinks... for all my friends."

edP January 9, 2007 at 10:39 PM  

ONE THOUSAND POINTS FOR USING THE TERM "stewbums"

Beautiful

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I like to drink. I like to watch movies. I like to watch movies about drinking. I like to write about the movies I’ve watched, but only if I’ve had a drink first.

All text including the title "Booze Movies: The 100 Proof Film Guide" Copyright William T. Garver

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