WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Based on 3 days in the life of a young Charles “the poet” Bukowski, Barfly follows King Boozer (Rourke) as he drinks, falls in love, drinks, brawls, drinks some more, gets an agent (Krige) in the sack, drinks, writes poetry and shares his philosophy of life with anybody who will listen. Did I mention that the man drinks?
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
When I first discovered BARFLY, it became one of my “stamp” films, where friends of mine would actually associate me with the movie (don’t ask). I was all about this pint of cinematic beer for many reasons. First off, my favorite actor starred in it (the criminally underrated Mickey Rourke), but more importantly I was entranced by its uniqueness, its wide blend of off-beat characters and its daring approach to plot. What plot, you may ask? Exactly! I would liken viewing this picture to a night of alcohol binging. Lots of events happen that wind up not meaning much, lots of spontaneous laughs arise, moments of self reflection occur and the gamut of emotion is always walking an unstable line. This film actually breaks most of the rules of narrative in terms of screenwriting and taking into account that Bukowski himself also wrote the script, I’m not surprised. That’s why it’s so damn compelling! BARFLY is a drunken poem put on celluloid. It’s deliciously intoxicated and wildly unpredictable in its nature.
At first glance, it might seem like it’s about alcoholism and depression, but if you scratch the surface lightly, you’ll quickly realize that it’s also about celebrating life in all of its meaninglessness and insanity. The witty and poetic dialogue drives that point home constantly and so do the wonderful actors spitting it out with such conviction. For anybody who's ever had any doubts about Mickey Rourke’s acting abilities, get ready to be sucker-punched into a corner. I was blown away by the man’s total transformation into a wino extraordinaire in this movie. If it wasn’t his addictive odd speech pattern, it was his endearing “Peacock” walk charming me. Faye Dunaway was also a revelation. I knew her mostly as a “glamorous” beauty before this flick, but here, she’s stripped of all pretences, is at her ugliest and feels so genuine. Needless to say, the chemistry between her and Rourke is all about sparks and Vodka shooters, and therein, pretty awesome! There’s no denying that BARFLY is truly one of a kind. It’s a rambling foray into the world of drunks who for all their lack of “socially acceptable ambitions”, wind up making more sense than the average Joe. Time to hit that Bourbon!
Commentary with Barbet Schroeder (feature length): Barbet is obviously very fond of this film and he enthusiastically shares info on the locations, lots of trivia in respect to specific scenes, how he hooked up with Bukowski and the screenplay process which he had to go through with the drunken writer. He also touches upon the varied cast, the lack of music in the film and yes...Frank Stallone’s moustache! This commentary does have some minor dead time, but is overall very captivating, especially if you love the movie as much as I do.
I drink, I gamble and I write- The Making Of Barfly (12 minutes): This is somewhat light in substance, but still an engaging behind the scenes look at the making of Barfly. Mostly, it features Charles Bukowski giving us his novel insight on why he wrote the film (money), Mickey Rourke’s performance and why he drinks so much. We also get a brief snippet of Mickey Rourke talking about the role and lots of on set footage. Good stuff, but I wanted more Mickey.
Excerpts from Barbet Schroeder’s- The Charles Bukowski Tapes (~4 minutes each): Here, we get 4 snippets taken out of various interviews with Charles Bukowski with his unique point of view on various subjects. The titles of each segment are: #2 Starving for art- #3 This bar in Philadelphia- #27 The New York Agent- #44 For Jane. It's all about Bukowski just not being the "norm" and re-integrating that he likes to drink. Nothing wrong with that.
We also get a Theatrical Trailer and a Cast and Crew option.
BARFLY is a raw, always entertaining, very well acted and at times, thought-provoking dive into a bottle. I’m so giddy to own this flick on DVD! Sure, I would’ve liked to have seen more Mickey Rourke oriented extras on the disk, but what can you do, that’s life and all I can do is drink it away. After I first saw this gem, I actually tried being a Barfly for like a week. Let me tell you, it's rough and a lot like the movie states...it takes a particular type of stamina to be a drunk. But in that week, I felt devoid of pressure and sumptuously lacked any type of “professional” direction…it felt so groovy, like a momentary spasm of clarity. Having seen the film again, I won’t try being a Barfly this time around (I got shit to do) but I will most definitely get a well earned drink. When life doesn’t make sense, there’s nothing like good buddy Jack Daniels to take the edge off. “A drink to all of my friends!” indeed.