'Factotum' a Satisfying Blend of Sensibilities Factotum is a delicate melding of a trio of different sensibilities you wouldn't think would naturally cohere. It gracefully combines the bleak world of the despairing poet and novelist Charles Bukowski with the droll point of view of Norwegian director Bent Hamer.
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'Factotum' a Satisfying Blend of Sensibilities

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'Factotum' a Satisfying Blend of Sensibilities

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Arts & Life

'Factotum' a Satisfying Blend of Sensibilities

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The works of Charles Bukowski have been adapted for the screen several times, most notably in the 1987 film Barfly, which starred Mickey Rourke. Bukowski's second novel was the inspiration for a new film called Factotum.

Here's Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan.

KENNETH TURAN reporting:

Factotum is a delicate melding of a trio of different sensibilities you would not think would naturally cohere: the bleak world of the despairing poet and novelist Charles Bukowski, the droll point of view of Norwegian director Bent Hamer, and the distinctly American-independent acting style of stars Matt Dillon and Lili Taylor.

(Soundbite of film Factotum)

Ms. LILI TAYLOR (Actress): (As Jan) Look at you. Pouring yourself that good whiskey (unintelligible) drinking this rot-gut wine. You're Mr. big-time horse player.

Mr. MATT DILLON (Actor): (As Henry Chinaski): I give you soul. I give you wisdom. I give you light and music, and some laughter.

TURAN: The result is a surprisingly satisfying film, true to both Bukowski and the movie itself. It's a work that manages to make the man and his profane world palatable without compromising on who he was and what he stood for.

Bukowski, the voice of the by-alcohol-dispossessed, wrote more than 60 books depicting his life as a down and out author and heavy drinker. Director Hamer also has a reputation. His charming Kitchen Stories was a surprise art house hit a few years back.

(Soundbite of film Factotum)

Ms. TAYLOR: (As Jan) Hey, I want to know what time it is. You said you'd fix the clock.

TURAN: Factotum displays the director's gift for whimsical humor and trademark sense of absurdity.

(Soundbite of film Factotum)

Mr. DILLON: (As Henry Chinaski) You set the clock by the TV at midnight last night. We know that it gains 35 minutes every hour. It says 7:30 p.m. right now, but we know that's not right because it's not dark enough yet. Okay. It's seven and a half hours, seven times 35 minutes...

TURAN: Bukowski's alter ego, Henry Chinaski, is played with deadpan Buster Keaton grace by the gifted Matt Dillon, who is maturing into one of the most unexpectedly involving actors of his generation. His Chinaski has remarkable dignity and self-possession for a serious alcoholic who takes an endless series of odd jobs. The love of Chinaski's life is played by Taylor. She's every bit the drinker and bottom feeder that he is.

Factotum hardly soft pedals these people. We see them at their physically and verbally abusive worst. But superior acting by Dillon and Taylor allows us a glimpse of the sweetness and the incongruity that coexist with the squalor and bad behavior. Chinaski is as deadly serious about his career as Bukowski was. In a voiceover, he says...

(Soundbite of film Factotum)

Mr. DILLON: (As Henry Chinaski) If you're going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don't even start.

TURAN: If you do that, he says, you will be alone with the gods. It is the only good fight there is.

It's a credo that kept the character and his creator alive and kicking and does the same for this unexpected film.

INSKEEP: Kenneth Turan, film critic for the Los Angeles Times and for MORNING EDITION.

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