Barfly movie poster

Barbet Schroeder, a tepid-blooded romantic with a trainbearer's attachment to society's runaways, has found here another recipient worthy of his attentions: a Charles Bukowski simulacrum named Henry Chinaski, full-time, round-the-clock drunkard who periodically rouses himself from a stupor to jot down some lines of lavatory-wall literature. Since Bukowski himself has written the script, the character is presented with a goodly share of bragging, and Schroeder's laissez-faire spectatorship translates this into a goodly share of flattery -- much more so than in his regard of the hedonistic dopers of More, the spiritualistic hippies of The Valley, or the S-M cultists of Maitresse. And the bragging on one side and the flattery on the other put up no forces of resistance against the run-amok hamming of Mickey Rourke in the lead. With his puffed chest, prognathous jaw, circus-chimp swagger, a voice ranging from W.C. Fields to Popeye, Rourke comes across as a kind of King Kong of drunks, tearing off and chewing up great handfuls of scenery, throwing anyone of mere human dimensions into the shadows, looking cock-headedly around himself for something new to stomp. He gets it, too, and all too obligingly, with the unfortunate arrival of a blue-blooded, ivory-skinned literata (Alice Krige), bent on "discovering" him, waving a $500 check from one of the Little Magazines as bait, and sweeping him away to her gated mansion in Beverly Hills (or, to Chinaski, in one of his fitful excretions of poetry, "a cage with golden bars"). Literary life aside, however, and liquorish life front and center, there are some nice bits of scrofulous and misanthropic, albeit always exhibitionistic, humor; and some nice locales, including an opening-credits montage of the sorts of L.A. watering holes not mentioned in the tour books (Smog Cutter, Ski Room, and, the hero's personal preference, The Golden Horn), photographed with a nice neon sizzle by Robby Müller. With Faye Dunaway. 1987.

Duncan Shepherd

This movie is not currently in theaters.


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