Sunday, October 24, 2010

FILM REVIEW - Born Into This

This documentary Born Into This, tells Charles Bukowski's lifestory mostly via the filmed record of the great man speaking. Of all modern poets and novelists, Bukowski exploited the subject matter of his own life to the full. All his flaws and virtues are on show, and we are not spared his occasional unpalatable excess, his compulsive drink fueled behaviour. The violent, self-destructiveness and womanising, that was often misinterpreted as unrepentant misogyny, when it really was an expression of his sensitivity and sentimentality, to a feeling of being unloved or rejected. He didn't have to live up to his wild drinking and debauched image because that was how he often was. The discomfort of the almost daily childhood beatings from his Father,and his Mother's complicity in it, appears to have turned him into the archetypal non-conformist for the late sixties. Many of his fans live off this stance voyeuristically. He,however, lived an extraordinarily plain and ordinary working mans life, whilst continuing to write. He spent years working as a carrier for the Post Office, until his growing fame suddenly made it possible in mid-life to make a living from his prolific output.

There is a quality to his writing, sometimes swaggering, sometimes so frank about his own moral turpitude it is shocking, yet there is a huge warm human heart beating in broken voiced sympathy underneath it. He describes the effect of living on the low life edges of West Hollywood, its humiliations and the corrosiveness of this suffering on the human spirit. This is where Bukowski's writing frequently transcends the specifics of his own experience, and gives voice to something with more universal resonance. His poetry is never wilfully obscure or filled with literary references, a style best exemplified by Elliot, a fellow American, but someone who could not be further away from Buckowski. Elliot was part of the literary establishment, that was the cultural authority for the middle class intelligentsia. In Bukowski we hear the genuine voice of the American working underclass, simple, direct and unaffected.

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