Monday, 1 July 2013

Barfly

Barfly; drama, USA, 1987; D: Barbet Schroeder, S: Mickey Rourke, Faye Dunaway, Alice Krige, J. C. Quinn

Los Angeles. Henry Chinaski has a very bipolar personality: on one hand, he is a gifted poet and writer, but on the other, he only hangs out at the bar, is a relentless alcoholic and enjoys fighting with the bartender. One night, he meets the equally nihilistic Wanda in a bar and they seem to be soul mates. He spends the night at her place, but she disappoints him, too, when he leaves to have an affair with a man he despises. Henry also meets Tully, a publisher who is a fan of his work and gives him a fair payment for it. Tully invites him to stay at her place, but his rough nature simply does not suit her idealistic world. In the end, Henry returns to Wanda.

The only film for which Charles Bukowski wrote a screenplay for Hollywood, "Barfly" is frankly not among his best work, but the sheer amount of persuasion, great pains and lengths that were invested into filmming it by director Barbet Schroeder (according to Bukowski's novel "Hollywood", Schroeder even went so far to threaten to cut of his finger with a chainsaw before the studio executives at the Cannon film production finally gave in and green-lit it) simply warrant at least for one viewing of this piece of dirty realism art-film. A semi-biography, Bukowski wrote "Barfly" as an answer to mainstream escapism and glamor in cinema, honestly and directly showing lower class as his main topic, something that is often avoided, whereas the cinematography by Robby Muller is great. However, several moments seem clumsy or just plain bizarre (the knife injury sequence; Henry pushing the car of a couple on the road even though the traffic light shows red), the ending is abrupt and without a point whereas the story warranted at least a little bit more of Henry's poetic side, instead of the (too much shown) slob side. Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway (nominated for a Golden Globe) are in top-notch shape, even though her character of Wanda had a more interesting destiny in Bukowski's novel "Hollywood" which gave her a more palpable tragic dimension, whereas the critics rightfully hailed the often comical dialogues ("The last time you paid for a drink was your first time!"; "I'd hate being you if I were me!"; the blow-job comment: "She is like a vacuum-cleaner!")

Grade;++

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