Factotum (2005) movie poster

(2005) dir. Bent Hamer
viewed: 11/24/08

I’m currently reading Charles Bukowski’s Tales of Ordinary Madness, the first of any of his books that I’ve ever read.  I did read an excerpt of one of his books before, but mostly I am familiar with him from his reputation and the film Barfly (1987).  And actually, though I had had this film in my Netflix queue for a couple of years, I was trying to watch it as a double feature with the earlier film.

Factotum is adapted from a Bukowski novel, with some other elements in it.  It’s very much autobiographical as far as I can tell.  The film stars Matt Dillon as Henry Chinaski, Bukowski’s alter ego.  Dillon was once one of the best-looking guys in Hollywood.  Arguably, he still is.  He’s only 40 years old or so when this film is made, and while he tries to slum it, he’s still pretty striking.

This is one of the film’s major flaws.  The film wants to “slum it” along with Bukowski, who was a “poet of the gutter”, a reprobate, sleazy sort, whose life is part of the legend that attracts people to him.  So, when he’s bedding Lili Taylor, who is a good actress, but has this totally highly excersised body, the modern style, she doesn’t physically “read” as of the slum as her character is.  I mean, does she drink and fuck and puke and then hit the gym for a couple hours?

Marisa Tomei also shows up, looking great, too, more fitting to her character.  She’s odd.  She’s not a bad actress and actually shows up in pretty decent films a lot of the time, and she’s quite beautiful.  Still, this is the film’s flaw.  Bukowski was an acne-scarred bum, whose beauty, if he had any, was in his soul.  As much as these characters try to eke out the comedy and the sublimeness of the material, it’s all very much a pretense.

The actors all seem to be game, so I’m guessing it’s the directorial deficiencies that drag the film down.  It’s not abysmal, but it’s not good.  It’s even kind of boring, and despite a few good one-liners and so forth, it’s just not up to snuff.

It seems that Barfly isn’t yet on DVD.  I’ve still got to finish the book I’m reading.  I haven’t passed my assessment of Bukowski as yet.  This film was not particularly helpful.

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