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Friday, May 29, 2009


With his fondness for artfully balanced ‘found’ compositions, measured pacing, off-skew character comedy and fatalistic tolerance of life’s bumps, Norwegian helmer Bent Hamer (what a name!) may remind you of those Finnish Kaurismäki boys. But this adaptation of some typically alcohol-soaked Charles Bukowski tales of slackers, low-lifes & a struggling writer (gee, who might that be?) doesn’t quite come off. It’s partially a question of tone, the cast reeks of L.A. health in spite of the grubby apartments, pasted on pallor & thrift-shop clothes. And partially that the low-budget production couldn’t allow for period settings. Bukowski’s world of easy-to-grab temporary employment, cheap bars, easy sex, come-and-go lodging, shared smokes & horse-racing culture, are long gone. BARFLY was pushing the time-limit back in 1987. But if we can’t fully buy into all the characterizations or the milieu, the basic story is snazzily put forth & Matt Dillon brings uncanny physicality to his fading yet somehow indomitable literary wreck. Watch his body language as he splits from his current lover, Lili Taylor. It’s the work of a great actor. Matt Dillon? Matt Dillon.

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