WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
I'd forgotten how hardcore a documentary could be. In this day and age when Michael Moore is putting the razzle dazzle in documentaries, complete with soundtracks, high tech visuals and awesome cinematography and sound it's refreshing and inspiring to see a film such as "Bukowski: Born Into This."
For those who don't know who Bukowski is, Bukowski is "Charles Bukowski," a cult writer, prolific poet and fairly widely known as a deadbeat everyman with a scraggly face, wicked attitude and penchant for wine.
Bukowski is the author of such poetic jewels as "Love is a Dog From Hell," "Notes of a Dirty Old Man" and the screenplay for the film 'Barfly," which is loosely based on his own life.
Whenever I find myself needing to let my emotions bleed or kneeling over the toilet in a drunken stupor, Bukowski seems to come to mind and I find myself curled up in my bedroom with a glass of wine and a Bukowski collection in my hands. I'll spend the entire night reading quietly and aloud his tales of broken love, violent dreams, crazy thoughts and wry observations. Bukowski doesn't mince words...he says it like it is and lived his life honestly and with little, if any, pretentiousness.
Bukowski was never a high paid author, necessarily. It's rumored he received a mere $20,000 for "Barfly." He was in his late 30's when he was first published, and he initially lived off a $100 weekly stipend for his writing. In many ways, "Barfly" made him a "household" name but never on a grand scale. Most people can say "I've heard of Bukowski," but very few can sit down and name his works, recite a piece or even begin to capture his essence.
"Born Into This" is a powerful documentary because it does just that...it captures the essence of Bukowski in a powerful and beautiful way. Celebrities abound in this film...yet, in many ways, that's an oddity. Bukowski was the champion of the everyman. Up until his death in 1994, Bukowski wrote about life experiences better than any other contemporary poet/writer. The celebrities who speak here, though, are clearly in touch with that essence. They include the likes of Bono, Sean Penn, Lawrence Ferlinghetti (who continues to devote an entire section to Bukowski in his bookstore), Tom Waits and Harry Dean Stanton. If I had to say that Bukowski resembled any one of these it would be Waits, whose own gruffness is rivaled only by his mind-boggling ability to capture the most intimate moments of life. That is Bukowski!
Bukowski had a weathered, pitted face from a severe case of childhood ulcerative acne vulgaris. He considered himself ugly and wrote about it often...yet he wrote about ugliness with the same love and affection that he admired love and beauty and wisdom and intelligence. He's lived in skid row hellholes and had no problem saying Mickey Rourke never should have played him in "Barfly"...he's too pretty and flowery.
This film is one of the best documentaries I've ever seen because it is faithful to its subject...it is real...it is raw. It honestly looks at the man including archival footage of readings that are as sad as they are funny...The world lost a great voice for everyman in 1994 when Charles Bukowski died and his widow has done everyone a favor by assisting in the production of this fantastic documentary. If you get a chance, you simply must see "Bukowski: Born Into This." Then, visit your local bookstore and pick up a collection...any one will do..."Love Is a Dog From Hell" remains my favorite...grab a glass of wine and surrender to the essence of Bukowski.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic