Factotum (Man of Many Jobs) (15)

Directed by Bent Hamer, Based on the book by Charles Bukowski
Screening at FACT, Wood St, 9th-15th December

Reviewed by Kenn Taylor

We are introduced to Henry Chinawski (Matt Dillon in his best performance for some time) using a pneumatic drill to chop ice into bits for bars and restaurants. His boss asks him to make a delivery to a pub, he leaves and doesn’t return to work, preferring to stay propped up at the bar talking to the old men, so he gets fired, for the first of many times in the film. No matter, he books himself into a sleazy hotel under the title of his real profession - that of a writer - and proceeds to do his favourite things: drink, write and fuck.

This is a film version of one Charles Bukowski’s many cult novels of alcoholism and living the low life in America. This particular tome focusing on his largely autobiographical character Chinawski’s movement between different occupations, all of which he finds equally beneath him, and his bitter adventures with the people that he meets along the way.

Henry doesn’t even manage to finish his training to become a cab driver before he gets sacked, while drunkenness ends his job at a pickle factory. As he slides through life he comments on the world around him and the odd characters that pass through his life from bosses to lovers. Like Jan, who he buys a drink when they meet; three days later he moves into her apartment. This relationship soon breaks down too when she becomes sick off his success at gambling and he loses his job in a bicycle supply warehouse.

Chinawski’s life is one largely of monotony, punctuated occasionally by the odd small adventure. Skipping work to go to the races, one of the women he meets gets him a short passage on an old lothario’s yacht. He tries to get a job as a reporter for ‘Time’ and ending up as statue polisher.

Bukowski is viewed by some as a painfully honest writer that refused to sell out, by others as bitter, arrogant and obsessed with his own integrity. Either way Bukowski’s books are filled with brutally dark humour wild tales and occasionally a clear view through all the bullshit of the human condition.

Norwegian director Bent Hamer manages to capture on film the deadpan tone and dry humour of Bukowski’s writing; even the pace of the film seems to be slowed by the protagonist’s world weary actions. It makes no attempt to glamorise the sorry existence of Chinawski/Bukowski, just showing his life, torn fatally between his talent and intelligence on the one hand and his arrogance and desire for authenticity on the other.

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