Barfly (1987)

Charles Bukowski, the great American poet and novelist of dirty urban realism, was famously contemptuous of movies, but put aside his prejudices when writing the screenplay for Barbet Schroeder’s Barfly. A passion project for Schroeder that took nearly a decade to produce, Barfly stars Mickey Rourke as Henry Chinaski, Bukowski’s recurring protagonist and alter ego, a perpetually drunk Los Angeleno and writer who befriends Faye Dunaway’s Wanda Wilcox (based upon Bukowski’s old girlfriend Jane Cooney Baker) over a mutual love of alcohol and disdain for civil society. As with many of Bukowski’s best novels, Barfly isn’t so much oriented on telling a traditional narrative as it is about illustrating the raucous atmosphere of skid-row life; Bukowski’s evocative yet blunt writing conjures the exuberance and debauchery of barroom binges and brawls, the tedium of lowend blue-collar jobs, and iconoclasm and alienation from the judging outside world. Schroeder’s film invokes this humor and color without eschewing Bukowski’s lack of sentimentality, while Robby Müller’s noirish cinematography perfectly captures the pulpy ambiance of Los Angeleno dive bars.

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