As Amazon's highly irritating habit of merging reviews for different formats/editions of the same title together continues, here's a review of the imported edition of 'Barfly' on bluray - the edition that has a bright blue rectangle with a white M on the bottom left of its' cover if you're checking the pics here. I'm not sure what country it originates from, but what we have here is a disc that plays on UK bluray players that are not enabled for region free, so the disc must be region-free.
I first saw 'Barfly' when it came out in the late eighties and wasn't massively impressed. Although it was screenwritten by Charles Bukowski himself - it clearly draws on scenes and characters from a number of his stories/novels - I didn't feel it captured the gritty, dingy seediness of the man's writing. The mis-en-scene seemed too light, leading man Micky Rourke too young and Faye Dunaway too glamourous. My feelings on these points haven't changed too much, but viewing the film again after such a long time, I feel more favourable toward it now as I'll explain.
Rourke is clearly depicting the younger Henry Chinaski here - a little older than he is in 'Factotum' but not as mature s he is in 'Post Office' perhaps. This is a more fictional Chinaski than the one in the novels though - a composite rather than a translation from the fiction. Despite his irritating delivery - drawing out words in a drawl that lengthens them artificially, Rourke is charming and funny as Chinaski. This is an affectionate rather than a tough, bleak portrayal. 'Barfly' is a funny, light, tender movie rather than a hard, desperate one. Despite the fact that there are two other Bukowski movies, none of them match the authenticity of the books.
Dunaway is great, but the fact remains that she is way too glamourous for the role of Wanda - plus she's a thin woman, not a curvy type, so she doesn't fit the bill. She's not bad though, being a fine actress. The supporting cast of barflies are, however, much better, but again, more often than not don't ring true as authentically beat as they should be.
The picture quality is good but not spectacular. The film certainly looks a lot better than the old VHS editions, but will not impress anyone used to top quality transfers of contemporary features though. But the serious Bukowski fan will cope - the man himself is present in two shots in one scene, sitting at a bar, presenting that magnificent, craggy face. Some 8 minutes and 30 seconds or so in, the image pixillated badly for a couple of seconds, but this may be due to damage or soiling caused by the fact that when I received the bluray it was rattling around in its case as it had come free of the spindle. I've not rewatched it since giving it a clean, so I can't tell you at this stage if this is an inherent flaw.
Overall, if you've forgotten this film, not seen it for years or are a younger Chuck fan and never caqught 'Barfly', I'd recommend you view this disc. Arguably, the Matt Dillon Bukowski film is better, but Rourke does more closely resemble Chinaski/Bukowski physically (and as I say, Chuck wrote it). However, all of the Bukowski movies are easily eclipsed by the sublime 'Trees Lounge' directed by Steve Buscemi, which is more like Bukowski's work than any of the films based more directly on his life and work.
Finally, if you wanted a review of the film and know nothing of Bukowski, well, sorry, but I can't help you...
The cops have accepted my apology and gone away. I've decided to lay low for a bit. What better way to do it than this, the best boozing film ever. This was Mickey Rourke when he was truely angry. A man who hated Hollywood playing Charles Bukowski the ultimate wino writer and fighter. Forget the corny tripe that was The Wrestler, this is the best film you will ever see. TO ALL MY FRIEEEEENDS.....YEAHHHH....!
I never really understood what it is that I like about this film, and that is what I like about this film! I think it's the duration of some of the shots, which are just awkward enough to bring you to the edge of the seat. Beautifully Strange. Strangely Beautiful.
Good at last to get hold of Barfly which has proved difficult to track down on DVD. This one is an import copy but no worries as the film plays fine in English. The cover is a little deceptive as seems to suggest a steamy love affair like nine and a half weeks which Rourke also starred in. But those who love the film know it better as the loose biographical account of writer Charles Bukowski's life as both drunken street-philosopher and aspiring writer. Scripted by Bukowski (with a very small cameo sitting at a bar) the film builds on the myth of Buk/Chinaski as a hard-drinking layabout who just happens to get into print, soon to become a cult within the underground literary scene.
It probably helps to know something about Bukowski to get on with the film's gritty outlook. This is not typical Hollywood as it portrays the seedy, underbelly of American/Capitalist life. The redeeming factor is the cruel humour that runs through the film despite the poverty, the seeming hopelessness and the occasional violence. This is what Buk saw as being the truth of human life, the kind he translated into his poems and stories, and the film does manage to capture the flavour of his work.
Barfly is perhaps best described as an arthouse film that stands up well to repeated plays. Rourke's portrayal of Bukowski is somewhat grotesque and overdone (Buk in real life looked after his appearance and wasn't as scruffy as Rourke's character). What carries the film along is the scathing observations of modern life that Bukowski is famed for. Funny and sad, but never obvious.
I got the Scandinavian DVD and while not worked out yet how to switch off the sub-titles, that does not detract from the power of this Barbet Schroeder movie which came as a bit of a surprise after many European art house movies of the 60s and 70s. Bukowski novels are never easy to visualise and they wisely got him to write the script for this one. The lines of dialogue crackle throughout and not just from his alter ego Henry Chinaski as played by Rourke.
I always find Rourke performs at his best when he avoids action hero type movies - I am a great lover of "The Wrestler" and this comes across very much as an early dry run with a totally dislikable character who drinks, fights and is obnoxious but yet captures his worldly wisdom thoughts on paper sufficiently to attract a literary magazine editor to publish him. In such roles Rourke's renowned method acting serves him well. However the real thrill is Dunaway appearing at a time when her Hollywood star was suffering still from "Mommie Dearest". I find her performance here probably one of her best and she captures beautifully the louche attitude of a beautiful woman too attracted to the bottle and heading for oblivion. This film is certainly up there with Bonnie & Clyde, Chinatown and Network in showing what she was capable of when well directed and stretched.
Also special mention should be made of the two support actors J. C. Quinn as Chinaski's friend and Alice Krige as the wealthy and attractive publisher attracted to the doomed Chinaski and not realising she is out of her depth when confronted by Dunaway. Add to this a very memorable cast of cheap bar low-lifes who all feed off each other and some smart art direction and camerawork. The several shots of daylight streaming into those dark room long bars when the bar door is opened and the inhabitants react dazedly captures the milieu of their twilight existence perfectly, and the bitter sweet ending of having gone full circle in the story depicts the entrapment of such an existence beautifully.
Hopefully someday soon there will be a new updated special edition English DVD with cast/director commentary or interviews that will finally do justice to this neglected masterpiece.
In fact there's not much positive in "this drunk-movie" apart from the first 15 min. which is rather funny. 80% of the movie is crap, bizar, unkind and unrealistic. When one look at it houmorous it's some kind of funny little cult-movie as mentioned. Faye Dunaway is very good, but who would feel comfortable with a drinker like this in real life? BUT I must admit after watching Barfly 3 times it becomes a bit like "the 90th anniversary/sent in Denmark every New Years Eve". Compared to 9 1/2 weeks it is much more houmoristic and much more easy to get into. I've change my opinion about it and started to think it's funny. (Though I don't like the destructive bizare part of it).