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Charles Bukowski October 15, 2006 11:50 PM

Born Into This is a bio-doc of Charles Bukowski:

Bukowski: Born into This
What matters most is how well you walk through the fire

"Bukowski: Born into This" contains no surprises for those familiar with the down-and-out icon's own autobiographical work, but would be an excellent introduction for the uninitiated.

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 October 15, 2006 11:51 PM


Novelist and poet Henry Charles Bukowski, like Che Guevara, is an icon of iconoclasm, a fantasy figure on which romantics project their visions of anti-mainstream heroism. Most commonly, to drop his name is to invoke the marginal predilections of an earthy everyman — whoring, boozing, gambling, living destitute — as sort of end in themselves, a suggestion that Vegas beats Disneyland. Predictably, like all biography-based shorthands for a particular social meaning, this understanding of Bukowski mistakes epiphenomena for essence, the reflection of the flame rather than the heat itself.

  BUKOWSKI: BORN INTO THISDirected by: John Dullaghan.
Produced by: Diane Markow, John McCormick.
Cinematography: Matt Mindlin.
Edited by: Victor Livingston.
Music by: James Stemple.

Related links: Official site
 SCHEDULECinema Village
22 E. 12th St.
(212) 924-3363

Bukowski sang an unvarnished and dimpled body electric, dreamed of racetrack heavens and healthy barroom violence, and felt abiding affection for the spat-out, those who take up the least space and feel the weakest sense of entitlement. He early exiled himself to marginality and stayed there, first sensing, next seeing, then shouting and screaming that a soul-shredding, thorned thicket lined the path of ambition, comfort, and ensconcement in the milkless, silicon bosom of state, economy, and family. It is as if Nelson Algren's Man with a Golden Arm traded his cards and morphine for a typewriter and beer, but remained in the underground, unmarked poker parlor. Much more so than Allen Ginsberg, to whom he is routinely and facilely subordinated as a "minor Beat," Bukowski turned the values of post-WWII America on their head, in a way that proved impervious to cooptation and could lead to nothing more than cult success.

Bukowski: Born into This  John Dullaghan's "Bukowski: Born into This" goes some distance in dispelling the cartoonish conception of Bukowski as not-so-affable boor — a conception which Bukowski himself had to fight against late in his life, when he would attend a party of academics and be expected to provide the entertainment of drinking himself into a stupor, hitting on a professor's wife, and pissing on the rug. Luckily, Dullaghan's task was eased by the nature of his subject. Bukowski is not a mysterious, elusive figure like Louis Khan of "My Architect". Bukowski had no sense of projected self, no sense of distance between literary and lived persona. He spoke and lived as he wrote, and his work was primarily a window into himself and his impressions.

Therefore, of all the standard biopic materials here assembled - interviews, footage of poetry readings, present-day reflections by his widow, publisher, and acquaintances, and scattered snippets of his poetry - the most effective at conveying Bukowski's complexity, fragility, and raw renitence are the readings and interviews, culled from television productions made in Europe (where Bukowski was, and continues to be, more revered than in America). In them, he appears here driving through L.A. with a cracked windshield, there drunkenly arguing with and even physically abusing his wife of his later years, and here again cursing out the interviewer. He answers all questions honestly, almost without reflection; in one instance, he sheepishly, but unapologetically, relates how he took full advantage of his late-arriving fame to serially sleep with beautiful women for the first time in his life. At a filmed poetry reading, he jokes with and menaces some interlocutors.

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 October 15, 2006 11:52 PM

This vintage footage, however, appears in a disappointing context. The film's arc of exposition takes biography quite literally; it draws a picture of Bukowski's life from birth to death, hitting all the highlights and lowlights: unhappy childhood with an abusive father, being spared WWII combat by a benevolent draft-board doctor, bumming around America, returning to L.A., getting a gig at the post office, remaining there a dark dozen or so years before finally making enough from his books and his publisher's generosity to quit, capitalizing on his fame and womanizing to the point of exhaustion, being involved in the production of a film about his early life ("Barfly"), and finally marrying, settling down, and dying.

  Bukowski: Born into ThisSound a little dull? Although there is humor and perspicacity in the telling of the tale, the artist biopic premise — that some light might be shed on the artist's art by chronicling the artist's life — is again proven more wishful than sound. What's more, the film is somewhat unnecessary: Bukowski's primary subject was his own life; his writing was almost wholly autobiographical — it covers all the film's biographical points — and his personality is stamped on every page. A mere twenty minutes reading "Post Office," "Notes of a Dirty Old Man," or any of his volumes of poetry will convey a truer sense of Bukowski's sensibility and take on life. Moreoever, in his writings, Bukowski could transform the otherwise mundane or pathetic episodes of his life into barbed or melancholy insights, horrified screams, and blunt humor, whereas, on film, his seemingly pathetic, quirky traits only make for a pathetic, quirky man. Revealing the human behind the caricature may puncture the caricature, but it does no service to the art itself, which worked the autobiographical materials into a unlacquered body of work that seduces the reader into wholehearted rejection of the precious, pretentious, delicate, false, spiritless, and middlebrow.

However, the true purpose of "Bukowski: Born into This" is perhaps not to provide some insight into the man that his work could not, but to introduce him, advertise him, to a new audience, and spur people to pick up his work. It is not a film for the admirer, but one for potential admirers. In this modest purpose, the film can and should succeed; enough of Bukowski comes through to make it clear that he is no ordinary poet, a piece of stray antimatter in a literary universe where the outlandishly priggish "Eats, Shoots, and Leaves" tops the bestseller list. As an introduction, "Bukowski: Born into This" works; as an advanced study, it cannot hope to replicate the crumpled origami that Bukowski made of his own life's experiences.

JUNE 4, 2004
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Dinosauria, We October 15, 2006 11:54 PM

Dinosauria, we

Born like this
Into this
As the chalk faces smile
As Mrs. Death laughs
As the elevators break
As political landscapes dissolve
As the supermarket bag boy holds a college degree
As the oily fish spit out their oily prey
As the sun is masked
We are
Born like this
Into this
Into these carefully mad wars
Into the sight of broken factory windows of emptiness
Into bars where people no longer speak to each other
Into fist fights that end as shootings and knifings
Born into this
Into hospitals which are so expensive that it's cheaper to die
Into lawyers who charge so much it's cheaper to plead guilty
Into a country where the jails are full and the madhouses closed
Into a place where the masses elevate fools into rich heroes
Born into this
Walking and living through this
Dying because of this
Muted because of this
Because of this
Fooled by this
Used by this
Pissed on by this
Made crazy and sick by this
Made violent
Made inhuman
By this
The heart is blackened
The fingers reach for the throat
The gun
The knife
The bomb
The fingers reach toward an unresponsive god
The fingers reach for the bottle
The pill
The powder
We are born into this sorrowful deadliness
We are born into a government 60 years in debt
That soon will be unable to even pay the interest on that debt
And the banks will burn
Money will be useless
There will be open and unpunished murder in the streets
It will be guns and roving mobs
Land will be useless
Food will become a diminishing return
Nuclear power will be taken over by the many
Explosions will continually shake the earth
Radiated robot men will stalk each other
The rich and the chosen will watch from space platforms
Dante's Inferno will be made to look like a children's playground
The sun will not be seen and it will always be night
Trees will die
All vegetation will die
Radiated men will eat the flesh of radiated men
The sea will be poisoned
The lakes and rivers will vanish
Rain will be the new gold
The rotting bodies of men and animals will stink in the dark wind
The last few survivors will be overtaken by new and hideous diseases
And the space platforms will be destroyed by attrition
The petering out of supplies
The natural effect of general decay
And there will be the most beautiful silence never heard
Born out of that.
The sun still hidden there
Awaiting the next chapter.
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 October 15, 2006 11:55 PM

What is your opinion of this poem guys?

Is it actually optimistic?

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Bukowski, Bukowski! November 05, 2006 1:37 AM

Bukowski was optimistic in the poem - after everyone on this planet perished

Bukowski's work is great. It's so pessimistic that it's optimistic. Well, sort of
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 November 05, 2006 3:41 AM

He can be addictive reading...

I did an info thread onhim here, if you'd like to read it-
Charles Bukowski (1920 - 1994)

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 November 05, 2006 11:02 PM

Cool, Daphne. Thanks  [ send green star]
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