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The Independent Critic

STARRING
Mickey Rourke, Faye Dunaway
DIRECTOR
Barbet Schroeder
SCREENPLAY
Charles Bukowski
MPAA RATING
Rated R
RUNNING TIME
97 Mins.
DISTRIBUTED BY
The Cannon Group
 "Barfly" Review 
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What Can We Do?
Charles Bukowski


at their best, there is gentleness in Humanity.
some understanding and, at times, acts of
courage
but all in all it is a mass, a glob that doesn't
have too much.
it is like a large animal deep in sleep and
almost nothing can awaken it.
when activated it's best at brutality,
selfishness, unjust judgments, murder.

what can we do with it, this Humanity?

nothing.

avoid the thing as much as possible.
treat it as you would anything poisonous, vicious
and mindless.
but be careful. it has enacted laws to protect
itself from you.
it can kill you without cause.
and to escape it you must be subtle.
few escape.

it's up to you to figure a plan.

I have met nobody who has escaped.

I have met some of the great and
famous but they have not escaped
for they are only great and famous within
Humanity.

I have not escaped
but I have not failed in trying again and
again.

before my death I hope to obtain my
life.

Watching Mickey Rourke literally consume the role of Hank, a Los Angeles drifter who turned poet late in life but who nonetheless spends much of his time drinking and fucking and fucking and drinking then fucking and fighting and drinking to the point of orgasm.

"Barfly," penned by noted street poet Charles Bukowski with the same hard edge and dark despair mixed with fucked up romanticism that became a trademark of Bukowski's writing. "Barfly" is a simple film in which Rourke lives out his pathetic existence in a drunken stupor until one day Wanda (played by Faye Dunaway), a woman who simultaneously appears classy but oddly like all the other skid row drunks, stumbles into the bar building a connection that would last allowing Hank to turn his downward spiral into a lifetime of poetry that would touch, inspire, challenge and provoke.

Rourke's recent appearance in "Sin City" served to remind all of us that Rourke is a brilliant actor, and that his own downward spiral trashed what had been a bright, hopeful career. "Barfly" was filmed in the early stages of Rourke's downfall, and it is perhaps his own moments of despair and bewilderment that come vividly to life on the screen.

Both Rourke and Dunaway are cinematic dynamite here, offering performance that sizzle with a street grit that is seldom captured onscreen, and they are surrounded with a Frank Milleresque type of production design that is captivating, depressing, hypnotic and, at times, downright overwhelming. The cinematography often brings to mind Bukowski's poem "Hug the Dark", in which the lead character literally is consumed by the darkness of the world.

"Barfly" has limited audience appeal because of its authenticity and because of director Barbet Schroeder's faithfulness to the source material of Bukowski. Throughout his writing years, Bukowski never held back even if it meant slandering his own name. "Barfly" is more than just a powerful film...it, quite literally, is the life of Charles Bukowski brought to life with magnificence by Mickey Rourke, Faye Dunaway and, in a lesser role, Alice Krige. Nearly 20 years after my first viewing, "Barfly" remains a film that is deeply etched within my psyche, haunting my visions even as I read "Love is Dog from Hell" for the umpteenth time.
 

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic

    The Official Rating Guideline
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