Barfly (1987)

Barfly (1987) movie poster

director Barbet Schroeder
viewed: 12/19/2015

I keep wanting to pronounce it “Barf-lee,” like it’s an adverb.

Barbet Schroeder’s 1987 movie, Barfly, is probably a lot of people’s gateway drug or otherwise introduction to notorious poet, novelist, and case-in-point screenwriter, Charles Bukowski.  Here, it’s Mickey Rourke as Bukowski’s stand-in, Henry Chinaski, drunk and loving it on Los Angeles’s Skid Row.  Faye Dunaway plays Wanda, his besotted gutter butterfly, and Alice Krige is the society lady whose read his poetry and sees the genius in the scuzzy alcoholic, only having a hard time realizing that the scuzzy alcoholic isn’t a mere outside guise, but his real self, as well.

I saw Barfly back in the day, and I’ve long had friends who were big Bukowski-ites.  I’ve read little of his work, but since watching (now years ago) Factotum (2005) and more recently Bukowski: Born Into This (2003), I’ve been wanting to re-visit Barfly, only it hadn’t been available on Netflix for all this time and only just suddenly appeared on Amazon Prime.

It’s a well-made film.  It looks good.  Shot by the excellent Robby Müller for Schroeder, it captures a Los Angeles no doubt long since altered.  Rourke and Dunaway are both very good, and the film sways and lurches between scenes of low-burn comedy.

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