>> Sunday, January 7, 2007
SA/C-94 m./Dir: Bent Hamer/Wr: Bent Hamer & Jim Stark/Cast: Matt Dillon (Henry Chinaski), Lili Taylor (Jan), Marisa Tomei (Laura)
Henry Chinaski, the alter ego of Charles Bukowski, first portrayed by Mickey Rourke in Barfly (1987), returns to the screen in Factotum. The film, an adaptation of the soused scribbler’s novel of the same name, follows Chinaski (Matt Dillon) as he works his way through a series of short-lived jobs and female companions. Punching a time clock and emotional attachments both represent obstacles in the way of Chinaski’s two true loves--booze and writing--so they are things with which he must eventually dispose.
I made the mistake of revisiting Barbet Schroeder’s classic 1987 film before viewing Factotum, and I found that in all ways--screenplay, direction, set dressing, and acting--the new film came up short. Factotum has little of the dry wit and dingy grandeur of the previous film. Everything is a little too clean, especially Matt Dillon, who’s too handsome, too well-groomed, and too healthy-looking to ever be completely believable as the sometimes-homeless boozer. Dillon’s good looks could have been overcome with makeup and body language (after all, Mickey Rourke was not a bad-looking guy), but his performance also comes across as timid, especially in relation to the insane, grungy power that Rourke brought to the role of the tough-guy bard.
I know it’s unfair to judge the merits of one film upon the successes of another, but it is impossible to help comparing the two movies, especially in that the bar and liquor store sequences in which Dillon initially encounters Marisa Tomei are nearly identical to first encounter of Rourke and Dunaway in Barfly. Ultimately, the new film a disappointingly flat concoction, lacking in many crucial ingredients.
Drinks Consumed--Whiskey (Scotch and bourbon), beer, and wine
Intoxicating Effects--Staggering, stumbling, vomiting, physical violence, and soused sex
Potent Quotables--HENRY (to his father): Hey, Robert, what do you say you and I go out and have a few cocktails?
ROBERT: You mean you wanna go drinkin’ in the middle of the week without a job?
HENRY: Well, that’s when you need a drink the most.
Video Availability--Factotum DVD (IFC)
Similarly Sauced Cinema--Bukowski’s writing was also adapted for Tales of Ordinary Madness (1981) and Crazy Love (a.k.a. Love Is a Dog From Hell, 1987).
The Charles Bukowski Tapes (DVD)