(Drama) Henry Chinaski (Dillon) considers himself a writer, and on occasion writes. Mostly he quests for the booze and women that sidetrack and seduce, rather than inspire greatness. When he falls for Jan (Lili Taylor), ... more »the soulful connection fails to« less
James B. (wandersoul73) from LINDALE, TX Reviewed on 6/14/2009...
Matt Dillon really brings this one to life. It's got a great Charles Bukowski feel.
2 of 5 member(s) found this review helpful.
Sometimes You Have To Sacrifice Everything
CV Rick | Minneapolis, MN, USA | 02/11/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Matt Dillon is Henry Chinaski, the alter-ego of Charles Bukowski. This is a movie about a man who finds solace in a bottle and outlet in the written word. He struggles to be a writer, knowing that his perceptions on society are unique and valuable, but at the same time believing everything to be pointless.
He can't hold a job down because he's a drunk, but he believes he can't hold a job down because every job is shackling his spirit. He can't keep a relationship because he's not able to feel anything beyond his own mind, and that's such a fountain of strong emotion that he has to dampen it with booze.
This is not a happy movie. This is a movie about despair and the agony of addiction. There's no message of recovery or vindication or even escape as in Leaving Las Vegas - the simple message is that for some people life is just too much to handle. For that message it's a true story, unadulterated by the can-do propaganda of self-help America. This is the dark side of civilization, the story of one of those left behind.
Matt Dillon becomes Chinaski and he delivers a powerful performance, at times violent, angry, and hopeless, while at other times driven and manic. He sums up his life with the line, "All I want to do is get my check and get drunk. It might not be noble, but it's my choice."
The movie ends with these thoughts, and it's from that world that Bukowski rose to give us a look at ourselves.
"If you're going to try, go all the way. Otherwise don't even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives, jobs. And maybe your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery, isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance. Of how much you really want to do it. And you'll do it, despite rejection in the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you're going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods. And the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It's the only good fight there is. "
It's not a movie for everyone, but I watched it three times. Dillon couldn't have done a better job, but I'm afraid it's not the right material for an Oscar nod."
Matt Dillon deserves an Oscar
Timothy D. Naegele | Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles | 09/15/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"So many people said after this year's Academy Awards that Matt Dillon should have won an Oscar as best supporting actor for his performance in "Crash." Perhaps so, but he deserves an Oscar even more as best actor for "Factotum," without a doubt. It is an offbeat movie that is not for the kids, but the camera captures the best acting that Dillon has ever done. Even with a beard and somewhat of a paunch, he radiates star power more so than in his other films.
First and foremost, IFC Films should be pushing for his nomination. The reviews are terrific, by and large; and it should be opened nationwide, not just in art house theaters. This is a "sleeper" gem of a film. Along with an Oscar nod for Dillon might come one for Lili Taylor because she is terrific too. Clearly, "Factotum" is an Indie film that has come out of nowhere, ground zero in fact, and might be marked for "stardom" if IFC puts some "muscle" behind the film in terms of marketing and promoting it.
In turn, its success might propel lots of independent filmmakers to "believe" that they too might "reach for the stars" and actually catch the brass ring. Dillon is a real talent, and so is Taylor. Marisa Tomei has a small but meaty part, and she handles it with aplomb as she always does. For those of us who fell in love with her years ago, when she won an Oscar as best supporting actress in "My Cousin Vinny," she shines in this movie too.
Even though Dillon's character, "Henry Chinaski," is an alcoholic and a womanizer who seems to fail miserably at all of his jobs, the one thread that keeps him alive and moving forward is his writing, which is ultimately his redemption--as it was for writer Charles Bukowski, on whose book the film was based. The only minor criticism of the movie might be that it needs some music in various scenes, and the end credits need to be redone to achieve greater clarity because they are impossible to read in a theater."
Factotum -- The Movie
Robin Friedman | Washington, D.C. United States | 09/01/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Factotum is based upon the 1975 novel by the American writer Charles Bukowski (1920 - 1994). The movie was shot in Minnesota in 2004 and premiered at several independent film festivals before its commercial release. The best-known earlier movie based upon Bukowski's work was Barfly (1987) which stared Mickey Rourke.
I looked forward to seeing Factotum for a long time, and I wasn't disappointed. The major character is Henry Chinaski, a character who figures in many Bukowski novels and stories and who is based loosly on Bukowski's own life. Matt Dillon gives a stunning performance of Chinaski, as does Lili Taylor, as Chinaski's on-again off-again girlfriend Jan.
Although the movie was shot in Minnesota, the scene of the movie is the poorer sections of Los Angeles during the years of WW II. Chinaski, a loner, outsider and drifter rejected for military service, is fired from one menial job after another as he works toward becoming a writer. Chinaski drinks heavily, gambles at the racetrack, fights, and moves from woman to woman. The low life of the movie is convincingly portrayed; yet Chinaski perseveres and ultimately succeeds in his goal of becoming a writer.
The movie differs from the novel in that the movie is set entirely in Los Angeles. In Bukowski's novel, Chinaski wanders back and forth around the United States. Thus, the novel begins in New Orleans, as Chinaski heads West to Los Angeles, and then backtracks through New York City, Philadelphia, and St. Louis before drifting back to Los Angeles. The book is thus substantially more episodic and less focused that the film adaptation. In addition, the film portrays Chinaski somewhat more sympathetically than does Bukowski's own text. For example in one scene, after Chinaski and Jan have walked some distance to pick up a check when Chinaski is fired from a job, Jan complains that she can't walk further and takes of her high heels. In the movie, Chinaski gallantly offers her his own shoes. This offer doesn't happen in the novel. The Minnesota scene of the movie doesn't quite look like Los Angeles, but it does capture the seedy, squalid character of Chinaski's surroundings.
In watching the movie, my companion commented on the lurid quality of the lighting, particularly as it involved the bar scenes. Another unusual feature of the movie is the outstanding musical score, which sets several of Bukoski's poems.
This is a tough, gritty movie of an individual who is seemingly headed for a life of alcoholism and failure. Chinaski somehow redeems himself as he works towards becoming a writer. I think the book and the movie both illustrate a traditional theme. They show how art and reflection have the power to find beauty in even the most sordid scenes and to bring meaning to a life in the midst of waste and sorrow.
Captures the essence of Bukowski's work...
Eduardo Nietzsche | Houston | 06/17/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Charles Bukowski is in some ways a Zen master who never stepped foot in a zendo or did any sitting meditation his whole life. Why? Because his writing is a wonderful embodiment of some of Zen's core principles:
1. seeing/accepting/living life exactly as it is, being exactly who/what you are from moment to moment---no fillers or additives, no wishful thinking or cheap sentimentalism, no attempt to control or manipulate events
2. radical agnosticism, sometimes called "keeping the not-knowing mind" in one's day-to-day, moment-to-moment existence; not clinging to concepts or projections
3. direct experience---related to #1, entails not being bound by any social conditioning, self-delusion, or reliance-on/conformity-to authority or conventionality, having a raw unfiltered exposure to all of life's vicissitudes
This film captures all 3 of those principles beautifully: we see Chinaski (the habitual alter ego in all of Bukowski's prose work) passing through a series of dead end jobs, hooking up with a number of similarly down and out women, moving around from roach motel to roach motel, apparently unconcerned with the past or the future.
Yes, Matt Dillon is way too handsome to play Chinaski, and both Marisa Tomei and Lili Taylor might also have been too attractive to play their characters. Yes, it's not true LA-street-level-grunge that the film is shot in, and the film sets are generally too sleek and clean to be true to life.
But so what? The acting is generally top-notch, the film editing is brisk and keeps the vignettes flowing along nicely, and the soundtrack is simply gorgeous. This is a far superior work than Barbet Shroeder's "Barfly" in large part because of the above, and also because Dillon is light years better an actor than Mickey Rourke could ever dream of being.
Moreover, "Factotum" is an excellent introduction to Bukowski's work and style. Of course there is no comparison to his actual books---I highly recommend his novels "Ham on Rye," "Women," and "Post Office" as well as his collection of short stories, "The Most Beautiful Woman In Town" and some of his poetry books like "The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over The Hills" and "Burning In Water Drowning In Flame." There is also a brilliant biography of him which strips away a lot of the folklore about him, by Howard Sounes called "Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life.""
Factotum - True To The Spirit of Bukowski If Not The Letter
Mark | East Coast | 11/04/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Factotum is a very good movie. To my mind, this movie has been misunderstood and somewhat underrated. Much of the criticism of this movie is valid based upon the letter of Bukowski's work. But when you really think about the spirit of his work, this movie succeeds in translating that to a present-day story that more people can relate to. This film best serves those less familiar with his writing. Hopefully Bukuowski fans can give this movie a second chance and grow to appreciate it from that vantage point.
There can be no more fitting tribute to the anti-hero persona of Bukowski than Chinaski, his alter-ego smoothly under-played by Matt Dillon. Once again, Dillon hardly matches the profile of the gruff and unattractive Chinaski from the original writings. But he rises to the occasion and embodies the character in ways that looks alone cannot describe.
The down-in-the gutter depravity that Bukowski constantly seeks to illuminate with his work is the center piece of this movie. The realism of this movie is so tragic it's comical. Wandering from lost job to failed relationship, Chinaski is often in a drunken stupor of disillusionment and self-loathing. When he does find a woman worth keeping, he can only continuously lose her. This is real life in a world where a man simply doesn't think it's worth it to care.
While Mr. Chinaski is offered many opportunities to work below his station as a statue cleaner, factory worker or janitor, he is rarely given the chance to do work that lets him use his passion to write. Sadly, even when one of his stories is chosen, his mail is taken, read, and discarded before he even learns of it. So even his little victories are swept away from him.
In making this movie, they made creative decisions that deviated from the original story. The story takes place in the present day and not in the period in which Bukowski lived and worked. Yet they did that to adapt the spirit of Bukowski to a movie for today's audience. The mixed reaction to this movie is akin to the reaction his work and life. So it comes as no surprise to me.
What does surprise me is to hear many fans of Bukowski's work state that this movie does not measure up to the message of his writing. In my mind, the spirit of his work should not be overpowered by the literal recounting of it.
If you have a dark sense of humor and a love of poetry, this story is painfully funny and all-together real. One can't help but be reminded of that famous Alan Ginsberg poem that starts, "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical."
Granted, this movie's negative message is somewhat of a downer if taken literally. So it is not for everyone. Yet if you can suspend judgment, this is a very interesting movie. The material is succinct yet well done, and the acting is minimalist yet once again well done. The one point I would make in criticism is that the first half of this movie isn't nearly as good as the second half. If you watch the second half alone a few times, it's easier to appreciate what they were shooting for in the beginning.
Regardless, I really enjoyed this movie. I've watched it many times and it still rings true to me, despite the artistic liberties they took. This is not for the typical movie night. But if you want to watch something dark, subtle and creative, this is it.