The Good

Matt Dillon acquits himself quite well in this loving movie about Charles Bukowski.

The Bad

Paltry extra features.

Factotum is a somberly told tale based on the book of the same name by Charles Bukowski. The story follows Henry Chinaski (Matt Dillon), Bukowski's alter ego, as a man who would like nothing more than to be able to write all day, drink all night, and have as much sex as humanly possible. The problem is that Chinaski has to work so every day is a constant struggle between both living and dying for his art. This movie doesn't have a narrative thread so much as we see things happen to our heroic character. He meets, falls in love, and has many fights with his girlfriend Jan (Lili Taylor), he gets fired from numerous jobs because he can't seem to care about them (Bukowski himself would routinely take jobs for a few days, get enough money to live for the rest of the week, and then be broke a few days later), and in the end we see that all Chinaski really has is himself and the works he has created.

Some people might see this movie as sad or pointless, I chose to see Factotum as the story of a man who had the guts to live his life the only way it made sense to him.


Making of Documentary

I wish this was more in-depth extra features. Truth be told, I think they really blew it on the bonus offerings. There's no director's commentary, nothing really focusing on Charles Bukowski, all we have to cling to is the featurette which is done in the typical cookie cutter format. Anybody who knows anything about Charles Bukowski knows that this guy never fit into that. Sure, it was great hearing people talk about playing the roles and who Bukowski was, I just feel that they had an opportunity to go deeper here and they didn't.


Widescreen Version presented to preserve the aspect ratio of the original theatrical exhibition. Enhanced for widescreen TVs. Having seen this movie first on a bootleg DVD, then in the theater and now again on DVD, I feel that this movie will probably have a big life on home video. I think what director Bent Hamer has done quite well is to place Chinaski in the real world, yet have the old worldly, Bukowskiesque qualities play out around this character. In life Bukowski seemed to be a man in the wrong time, and that is how Chinaski feels in this film. On DVD, this movie sparkles and I hope it is found and appreciated.


English Dolby Digital 5.1. Subtitled in English and Spanish. This movie sounded good. There is a solid mix of narration and regular dialogue and I enjoyed the music employed to underscore Chinaski's given situation. While I didn't hear anything about the sound design that blew me away, I really loved the way Hamer seemed to use audio to pace this film. In fact, his use of it was just as strong as his nonuse of it.


A painterly image of Matt Dillon is featured on the cover of this DVD and behind him are shots of Lili Taylor and Marisa Tomei. The back cover features various shots from the film (all of which showcase people sitting down), a description of this movie, a Special Features listing, a cast list (it's amazing that there were so many producers for what seems like a small movie), and system specs.

Final Word

Sadly, they marketed this film as the tale of a man who says he's a writer but yet never writes. They make it seem like Chinaski never did anything with his stories when that was all he did. He lived to write and he mailed out his stuff in the face of constant rejection. If this had been a Hollywood film it would have shown the eventual enormous success that the writer had. As it wasn't, I think that the people at IFC were confused because, as independent minded as they like to think they are, they only sometimes put out moves that are truly marching to the beat of their own drummers. Factotum is very much one of those.

Matt Dillon is very good at embodying Henry Chinaski. Based on his early career work, this guy could have gone the Tom Cruise route, but he sacrificed the money to remain interesting. The biggest problem Dillon faced, I feel, is that Mickey Rourke has embodied the character so long due to his work in the 1987 film Barfly. People love that film and the fact that Bukowski wrote the screenplay also gives it a cool cachet. However, truth be told, it seems that Bukowski wasn't a big fan of that movie so it makes me wonder what he would have thought of Factotum.

While I feel that Barfly is a better movie, I found both films to be equally uplifting.

Factotum was released April 25, 2005.