Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Two Very Different Bukowski's

There are two films that go by the name Bukowski. The first, a 60-minute PBS documentary aired in 1973, marked Taylor Hackford's directorial debut and followed the real Charles Bukowski as the drunken poet made his way from LA to a reading in San Francisco. The second, a weird nine-minute 2010 fictional short by Dutch filmmaker Daan Bakker, has been touring for a while and recently bellied up to the Los Angeles Film Festival. It is scheduled to also be shown on Sunday, June 26th at Palm Springs' ShortFest.

The reviews for the comedic Dutch short at are pretty good, portending a film that should be better than it is. But that's the difference between watching a short online and, as I did in this case, a movie theater. Expectations when viewing something on the big screen are higher; the thirst in the latter case is for a double on the rocks rather than a single shot, dry.

There would not seem to be much point in summoning up a screen version of Bukowski without the alcohol, but that's the case with Bakker's short. A little boy staying at a hotel devours the tome Pleasures of the Damned and then wanders around late at night, putting on a show of parroted Bukowski wisdoms for hotel staff. All while drinking only apple juice.

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Bakker's previous short, another kiddie-centric narrative entitled Jacco's Film, won the Audience Award at the 2010 Leuven International Short Film Festival. Certainly, there's artistic promise here; Bukowski is assuredly made and compactly self-contained. It's just too bad the kid drinks apple juice.

Allowing young actor Miles van der Lely to essay a precocious bout with late-night drunkenness would have been much more fitting to his namesake inspiration.

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