This is the third Bukowski adaptation I've seen (via 'Factotum' and 'Barfly') and in many ways it is certainly the most interesting. It's an uncompromising tale of drunk Charles Serking (or Bukowski, or Chinaski...whatever you prefer) getting drunk, messing around with various women, writing poetry and living the low life of Hollywood. Unlike the other two Bukowski adaptations, 'Tales of Ordinary Madness' is so relentless in pessimism and futility, it's not going to be for all tastes. It also has scenes that might shock the casual viewer (two very painful scenes involving a large safety pin require a strong stomach) and the sex is violent and as damaged as the characters themselves. However, the film can at least justify the extreme nature of these scenes as everything is an intimate character study of shattered psyches and lost souls. It's a bleak, despairing film about empty meaningless lives, and the climax is an understated catharsis for Serking. His life probably wont change, but at least he'll be able to cope with it again, even if it's in the usual way of drink, women and writing.
The film is beautifully shot and there's a nice use of music throughout. The performances are strong and believable, but it's Ben Gazzara as Serking that makes the film so utterly compelling. It's a truly great performance. Brave in many respects. And out of the three Bukowski adaptations, HIS is the better 'Bukowski/Chinaski' clone. Rourke was a charming pussycat and Dillon was weary and aloof, but Gazzara brings Serking to life in so many ways. His depiction of Serking is a revelation.