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  • Posted February 16, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I didn't expect to like this movie, but I did

    Fans of Charles Bukowski's writing will be happy to know that his 1975 novel Factotum has been adapted for the screen by director Bent Hamer and writer Jim Stark. (The film also includes excerpts from three of Bukowski's other books: The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses over the Hills, What Matters Is How Well You Walk Through the Fire, and The Captain is Out to Lunch and the Sailors Have Taken over the Ship.) Unfortunately, having never read anything by Bukowski, I am not one of those fans.

    If, like me, you are unfamiliar with Bukowski's work, here's the movie in a nutshell: Factotum literally means "one who performs many jobs." As such, it comes as little surprise that the movie follows Henry Chinaski (Matt Dillon)--commonly known to be Bukowski's alter ego--as he wanders from one dead-end job to another on his way to becoming a successful writer. Along the way, he also finds more than a few bars and takes up with a couple of distracting women.

    You might have guessed by now that Factotum doesn't really have a conventional plot. Instead it functions more as a series of vignettes and character studies. As such, the movie is truly driven by its main actors, who all deliver brilliant performances in memorable roles. The distracting women that I mentioned before--Chinaski's girlfriend, Jan (Lili Taylor) and Laura (Marisa Tomei), a woman he takes up with during the film--bring a lot to the story, serving as excellent counter-points to Dillon's Chinaski. Fisher Stevens (an actor that fans of "Early Edition" may remember) also makes an appearance as one of Chinaski's many quirky coworkers.

    All of these elements come together to make Factotum very quotable. Every scene has at least one good line. Some, like the pickle factory scene, have nothing but good lines. Most of these good lines are Chinaski's and Dillon delivers them all with style. "People don't need love. What they need is success in one form or another," is just one of Chinaski's many pearls of wisdom. As the film progresses it's also fascinating to watch Dillon lie and charm his way in and out of jobs, arguments and anything else he can.

    So, if you enjoy quoting movies, you should definitely try to see this one.
    Like the writing, the cinematography and music throughout Factotum are clearly meticulously planned. A scene where Chinaski is smoking out of a window at one job is particularly striking. The music, especially in the beginning scenes, is haunting and uncannily reminiscent of Chinaski's travels and pitfalls during the course of the film.

    First and foremost, this movie is about a writer. Viewers have no doubt that writing is Chinaski's great passion. That fact is obvious from the voice-overs--which come from Chinaski's yellow-legal-pad-writings--that accompany many scenes throughout the film. Chinaski's second passion is alcohol. It is not an exaggeration to say that nearly every character goes through the movie drunk at one point, if not at several points. In fact, only the really boring characters seem to remain sober throughout the film. But that's okay.

    In other movies it might get tiring to watch Chinaski wander from job to job and bar to bar, this movie doesn't lag because of it. Instead, thanks to the humor that is conveyed through voice-overs and dialogue, viewers will find themselves thoroughly invested in Chinaski's wanderings.

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  • Posted October 1, 2010

    Matt Dillon is great at doing Bukowski, but he is way too pretty to BE the Buk

    The film moves as slow and quiet and grinds as deep as the wage slave's life Bukowski depicts in his books. A film about a poet who writes about that particular [gradual] annihilation pretty much has to be slow-moving. The sound track could have made up for the lack of epic dynamism inherent in the deliberately-go-nowhere plot, but the music was not amazing. Matt Dillon was good as Chinaski, wonderfully pretty and slow-talking. I'm not a big fan of Lili Taylor, but she was good, too, as Jan, the cigarette-talking so-called girlfriend. I wish the music had been as perfect and smooth as Dillon's complexion. His voice, face, cadence and movements coupled with amazing music would have been stellar. I would have watched the film a hundred times (instead of only six or seven). Bukowski was into amazing music. The film dedicated to him should have been, too.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    A Tough Film To Review

    Commenting on FACTOTUM, a film based both on Charles Bukowski's novel of the same name and simultaneously an autobiography of a strange writer, is a difficult task. If director Bent Hamer and screenwriters Jim Stark and Hamer were striving to create the milieu in which the story of Bukowski's alcohol-soaked, lowlife women lover life as a wannabe poet and writer, a life of depression and failure and striving to be something other than a misfit, then they have succeeded admirably. If that is the goal then the movie deserves five stars. Sadly, the monochromatic delivery of lines, of lack of movement, of repetitive failures, and of the inordinately boring voice over delivered in a monotone makes staying with this film almost impossible. Matt Dillon is Henry Chinaski (read Charles Bukowski), a man who writes when he is barely sober from his 24 hour a day drinking, submitting stories to magazines and editors. But his main concern is making just enough money for the next bottle of booze. He hooks up with some equally sad women - alcoholic Jan (Lili Taylor in her usual fine characterization ability) and alcoholic Laura (the always fine Marisa Tomei) - and some transient buddies whom he meets at his various nothing jobs, attracting the attention at times of guys who will join him in a bookie racket, but always struggling with employers who do not tolerate his bellicose and drunken behavior. Even his parents throw him out. He is a sad sack of a man who finally gets a story accepted by Black Sparrow Press, seemingly the purpose of dragging us through this depressing 94 minutes of a film. Matt Dillon's performance has been praised by some and he does seem to embody Henry Chinaski's dreary soul, but the performance (especially the boring voice over portion) is so flatline that it is difficult to care for him at all. Yes, Bukowski wrote and lived like this and for Bukowski fans the movie will satisfy. For others this film is just too interminably dreary and long to tolerate for a second viewing. Grady Harp

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