Quietly spoken, introverted Henry 'Hank' Chineski (Charles Bukowski's alter ego) tries to get casual jobs (anything, like a factotum) around Los Angeles just to survive, in between his prime activity of writing, but his heart isn't in the job thing. He lets the ice in the ice delivery truck melt, and his drink driving record goes against his taxi driver application. With a drink never out of reach and women and/or gambling to distract him, Hank finds the going tough.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Bent Hamer's Kitchen Stories (2003) is one of those marvellously sparse, Scandinavian films that is at once minimalist and yet textured, full, taut and starkly humorous. That same mood is captured here in the down and out story of a writer who reads too many rejection slips, drinks too much and teeters on the edge of survival.
Matt Dillon's reserved, internalised performance is a standout, embellished by his sometimes confronting, sometimes intimate narration, with a melancholy soundtrack filling up the cracks where hope threatens to shine through. The subject matter was previously explored in Bukowski's own script for Barfly (1987), starring Micky Rourke and directed by Barbet Schroeder, which screened in Competition at Cannes. That is a showier film; this is a more muted affair, and dryer.
In that rare moment of his life that Hank gets lucky on horses and he upgrades with a new wardrobe and a cleaner style, it's as if he's gained the world but lost his soul, as Jan (a terrific Lily Taylor) points out to him. But we're soon back, off Easy Street and into the darker lanes of his life as the film simply comes to an end - without an ending, but with that haunting refrain of a life still in development, like his writing.
The honesty of the work is nowhere better demonstrated than at the moment Hank faces one of his many ex-employers, wanting his severance cheque, explaining he just wants the money so he can go and get drunk, he adds, "That may not sound noble ..., but it's my choice."
Published November 2, 2006
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FACTOTUM: DVD (US/Norway, 2005)
CAST: Matt Dillon, Lili Taylor, Fisher Stevens, Marisa Tomei, Didier Flamand, Adrienne Shelly, Karen Young, Tony Lyons
PRODUCER: Bent Hamer, Jim Stark
DIRECTOR: Bent Hamer
SCRIPT: Bent Hamer, Jim Stark (novel by Charles Bukowski)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Christian Rosenlund
EDITOR: Pal Gengenbach
MUSIC: Kristin Asbjornsen
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Eve Cauley
RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Aztec International
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 15, 2006
SPECIAL FEATURES: None
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Aztec
DVD RELEASE: October 11, 2006