Bukowski: Born Into This (USA; 130 min.)


directed by: John Dullaghan
documentary
Bukowski: Born Into This
 
Bruce says: "BUKOWSKI: BORN INTO THIS is a documentary about the poet and novelist Charles Bukowski who was known to his friends and business associates as Hank. Born in 1920, the act of writing came early for Bukowski but success took its sweet time. At the age of 13 he felt he was a writer; he found a pencil, started writing and filled a notebook full of words. However, Bukowski did not get seriously published until his late forties. In the 1960's he became a columnist for the LA Free Press, writing Notes of a Dirty Old Man. In the 50’s and 60’s he was one of the countries most prolific poets; he wrote for small press magazines for years. Henry Chiminski, a thinly disguised self, is the protagonist in both his poetry and his novels, which he wrote later in his career.

"In addition to writing, Bukowski also had to work for many years. He was a postal worker later in life, after he traveled cross country in his youth getting jobs as a day laborer and surviving on eating nothing but a Pay Day candy bar each day…a Pay Day and more than a few drinks, no doubt. His itinerant life and his experiences at the post office provided much source material for his work

"Dullaghan has a marvelous sense of how to present an artist to his audience. By the time the film is over we have a good idea of what Bukowski’s childhood, sex life, marriages, excess drinking, love affair with the racetrack, health, friendships, and business relationships were like. All this helps us to understand his creative energy and his drive. Considering his subject has such a bad boy image, Dullaghan even manages to give us insight into Bukowski’s more compassionate side.

"Growing up at 2122 Longwood Avenue in Los Angeles, Bukowski dubbed it The House of Horrors largely because his father was a cruel disciplinarian, taking out the razor strap and beating him regularly when chores were not done properly. Writing about it later was a cathartic experience Bukowski tells the camera. As bad as his home life might have been, Bukowski lived at home until he was 24, the same year he first had sex.

"Much of Bukowski’s persona was centered on his machismo and his sex life. Growing up he felt ugly and women were never attracted to him. Later when he was famous for his womanizing and writing, women flocked to his side. Bukowski defines sex as 'what you do when you can’t sleep' and love as 'morning fog that lasts a little, then burns off with the first daylight of reality.' This man was no born romantic. Twice married, his first wife was a pen pal he proposed to without ever seeing her. That marriage lasted two years. His second marriage lasted for nine years until his death. True he was mean and nasty to many of his women but they all had their tender moments with Bukowski, the memories of which override the pain.

"It is a special treat to hear Bukowski reading his own words, putting emphasis on what torments him and what feeds his passion. It is also a treat to hear others read his work, separating the words from the man – and Bukowski’s words do stand on their own without any assistance from the source. We see Bukowski reading his poetry at Ferlinghetti’s City Lights bookstore in San Francisco. Later, he reads excerpts from The Genius of the Crowd. I felt a chill when I heard him reciting,

'…beware those who are quick to censor
they are afraid of what they do not know
beware those who seek constant crowds for
they are nothing alone
beware the average man the average woman
beware their love, their love is average
seeks average

but there is genius in their hatred
there is enough genius in their hatred to kill you
to kill anybody

not wanting solitude
not understanding solitude
they will attempt to destroy anything
that differs from their own
not being able to create art
they will not understand art
they will consider their failure as creators
only as a failure of the world
not being able to love fully
they will believe your love incomplete
and then they will hate you
and their hatred will be perfect…'

'His publisher, John Martin has a lot to say about Hank and the work of Hank’s he published. The two men had a terrific relationship, working well together to put each other on the map. Enduring friendships are often quite telling about a person’s nature.

'Much of the Bukowski footage consists of clips from interviews for German and Belgian TV. Unfortunately the footage is not of high quality. Some of the talking heads are poorly labeled. Those are my only two complaints in what was otherwise a delightful and educational experience. 5 cats"

 
Chris says: "To illustrate this documentary's effectiveness, I went into it not having read anything by Bukowski, and came out of it wanting to devour his back catalog. This is an intelligently constructed, frankly sincere portrait of a great poet. It acknowledges his mythical status as an alcoholic, misogynistic visionary, but through lots of fascinating archival footage and interviews, it reveals dimensions to the man that occasionally contradict that very image. Although the film's over two hours long and proceeds at an expectedly leisurely pace, it never dragged. Nor did it go the slick, empty-headed, regretfully "hip" route documentaries about counterculture figures are often prone to. Much more worth your time than SUPER SIZE ME. 4 cats"
 
Diane says: "I'm a Bukowski fan, maybe since Barbet Schroeder's 1987 BARFLY. (Bukowski didn't like how he was portrayed by Mickey Rourke in that biopic.) This docu of LA's 'dirty old man' poet/novelist has good content but not much shape--we're not driving toward something. It's pretty much chronological. I was reminded of I LIKE KILLING FLIES in that a regular guy wows us with wisdom (and in this case, art), but this guy's voice is like William Burroughs'--scratchy and slow.

"In this film, Bono makes a good observation on Bukowski's direct style: 'No time for metaphor!' Plus, you get to see Tom Waits drinking a cup of coffee again. 3 cats."

 
Barbara says: "For those of you who will be voting on documentaries, this is a must see. At the beginning I thought Bukowski was going to be one of those characters that is so easy to dislike (like a couple in WORD WARS) but as the film progresses, he becomes such a compelling figure that I was left with a definite itch to read more of his works. All aspects of his tumultuous life seems to have been bared but his work stands out as thought provoking and serene at the same time." 5 cats
 
Michael says: "I’m not a fan of Bukowski’s. I had no interest in seeing this film at the Coolidge. Chris and Diane saw it. They enjoyed it. I still wasn’t interested. We got a screener for the film. I wasn’t interested. Barbara raved about it, and Chris commented on it again. I thought it would be good to see, but I didn’t think I had the time. Barbara recommended seeing it yet again. I gave in. I asked for the screener. I began watching the film. Bukowski annoyed me. The film was fine, but didn’t really do anything all that unique.

"Then, about 20 minutes in, I was hooked. There was more to 'Hank' (Charles) Bukowski than I thought. The documentary relies on talking head interviews, video footage of Bukowski himself, both at readings, and in interviews with various journalists, and on Bukowski’s work itself. First-time filmmaker John Dullaghan manages to show the many faces of this complex man in just under two hours, and he does so in a leisurely, conversational manner, as if we are spending the day with Hank himself. He also had suprising access to many people who were close to Bukowski, including his second (and final) wife, Linda, his lifelong publisher, several women who were involved with him (including the surprisingly moving 'Cupcakes') and high profile fans, such as U2’s Bono, Sean Penn, and Harry Dean Stanton. Bukowski may have been a passion for Dullaghan, but there is certainly talent there, and I’d be interested to see what kind of film he does next. 4 cats