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"Barfly" was a fairly successful film when it was released and garnered
generally favorable reviews. Roger Ebert gave it four out of four, and
along with "Angel Heart," it helped solidify 1987 as the Year of Mickey
However, almost twenty years later it isn't talked so much about anymore, and I feel it deserves to be. Rourke gives one of his finest performances as Henry, a loner who walks hunched over like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Henry works at a bar as a runner - delivering orders and such. But he's always getting into drunken brawls with the bartender, usually losing.
One day Henry's life takes a turn when he meets a downtrodden woman (Faye Dunaway) and they embark on a relationship.
"Barfly" is a great film. Rourke was vocal later on in his career about his dislike of director Barbet Schroeder, but Schroeder's direction is part of what makes this film so good.
However, the absolute best aspect of the movie is Rourke's performance. Embodying the late writer Charles Bukowski (whose work this was based upon, and who had a brief cameo in the film), Rourke is unrecognizable - like Billy Bob Thornton in "Sling Blade," his entire demeanor and physicality seems to change.
I highly recommend "Barfly" - it's funny, dark, witty, touching and downright enjoyable. One of the best films of the '80s.
Barfly is the delightfully gritty tale of a warrior poet (Rourke) disguised as a drunken idiot who lives in a roach motel and, you guessed it- a drunk who can never pay his bar tab. Mickey Rourke shines in the lead role and in my opinion deserved an Oscar for his brilliant performance. Faye Dunaway also gives a great performance as The Mick's love interest. Rourke creates a cult icon that will keep you in stitches and riveted for the duration of the film. You'll talk about this movie long after viewing it. "A drink for all my friends!" Rent Barfly ASAP you won't be disappointed!!
What can we say about Barfly? A great picture. That's what we can say. A friend of mine recommended Barfly to me. I watched the start and it said "Some people never go crazy, what truly horrible lives they must live!" After that I was hooked, I knew this guy Bukowski wrote from the gut. I bought as many Bukowski books as possible. Pulp, Hollywood, and Women (my favourite!). I like his novels and short stories more than the poetry. But some of the poems are intense! The movie is also excellent. The two leads are great-Faye Dunaway is in high acting form here. So is Mickey Roarke who seems to have gotten under Bukowski's skin for the role......a side note he did the movie sober! This movie is directed by Barbet Schroeder who also did Reversal of Fortune. He also made the 4 hour Charles Bukowski Tapes (which I own) and it is good, but way too long! Bukowski drinks and reads poems. Back to the film-good supporting actors in this one. The beautiful Alice Krige (from Haunted Summer) is in this as well as David Lynch regular Jack Nance. Lynch was actually on set one day. Bukowski has a funny cameo a barfly in the bar where Mickey meets Faye. I heard that Dennis Hopper wanted to direct this and have Sean Penn star. Schroeder fought hard for it though. Hopper states Schroeder couldn't direct traffic! I guess he proved him wrong. Schroeder went into a production office with a power saw and threatened to cut off his pinky finger if they didn't put more funding into the film. Obviously a labour of love. So check it out if you can, the writing is top notch stuff.......Highly recommended. Thanx.
Barfly is a rarity in American cinema: a character study that doesn't worry about telling a story with a beginning, middle, and explosive end. Mickey Rourke is excellent as Henry Chinaski, a writer and habitue of skid row who isn't so much slumming as soaking in it. The real surprise here is Faye Dunaway as his love interest: it's easily her best performance since Chinatown and proves she still has it. Also of note is Frank Stallone as Eddie, the barman who keeps getting into one sided fist fights with Henry. A triumph and one of the best American films of the eighties.
Perhaps Mickey Rourkes' final great performance, BARFLY sees him as
prolific writer/poet Henry Chinaski who rejects conformity in every day
society and believes it to be frustratingly fake. As a result, he is a
drunk, and prefers to hang out with 'all his friends' in a regular bar by
getting into fights whilst the crowd pays the winner (no guesses as to what
he spends his money on) until he meets a 'strange girl' at a bar- Wanda
(Faye Dunway). The two instantly click- both are intelligent indivuals who
reject over regularity in every day passive conversation (Dunaway- 'I hate
people, don't you? Rourke- 'I don't mind them, but I seem to feel better
when they're not around'). The two form an instant freindship/relationship
because of one major primary function that can keep them together- drink. A
researcher who picks up talented writers like Henry enters the frame and
falls for him due to his prolific writing and offers him a place in 'the
good life' with her- but Henry rejects this when she tells him he will 'grow
into it' (Rourke- growing is for plants- I hate roots).
BARFLY manages to do something profound that so many films fail to do- in showing us that conformity isn't suited to intelligent, open minded creative individuals like Henry. Rourke excels himself in this role, it's as good a performance but a completely different one from his role in ANGEL HEART (starring in 3 great films, including RUMBLE FISH, really doesn't do him justice- he was the best of his generation in the 80's). He plays Henry not unlike how Jeff Bridges plays Jeffrey 'The Dude' Lebowski in THE BIG LEBOWSKI (I'd be very surprised if the Coens didn't take inspiration from this film, and fans of that particular film should also check this out) as some one who you would consider to be an every day loser but is probably a darn sight more smarter than you believe them to be (as well as having a self serving purpose for the life they have chosen to live). Faye Dunaway, as usual, is uniformly excellent as Henrys lover/drinking partner, managing to convey an aura of sassiness and casual sophistication, and who has also chosen to take this particular path in life for a reason- the same as Henry's. The chemistry between these two leads is astounding, and the script is pitch perfect with dozens of memorable lines (Dunway- 'Whatever happens, don't expect me to fall in love with you', Rourke- 'That's ok, nobody has ever fallen in love with me anyway'). To me at least, Rourke's performance as Henry is the single most likeable character created in any film, and it stays with you long after the film is over. Touching, funny and profound- a minor masterpiece, a 'nice' film, I RECOMMEND IT!
Despite Bukowski's condemnation of Mickey Rourke's portrayal of
him/Chinaski in the film (claiming Rourke was too cocky with the role,
and didn't stick to the character of Chinaski as Bukowski intended)
states Bukowski in the documentary "Bukowski: Born Into This", I still
view it as one of the highlights of Rourke's career.
Whether the depiction of a character is exact in the fashion of perfect mimicry is often irrelevant to me in relation to biopics. As a matter of a fact, I often find it the downfall of some biopics, where the physicality may be captured, but the meat and potatoes of the character's are often left by the wayside. Not so in the instance of "Barfly." Rourke nailed Bukowski/Chinaski's crazy, alcoholic, free spiritedness brilliantly, I felt. There was a humor, a tenderness, a coldness, a twisted romanticism, and a bleakness, all wrapped into a greasy, overweight (Rourke pulled a "De Niro", gaining weight and not bathing months before the film's shooting) package you could almost smell from the theater seats.
Faye Dunaway as the aging, sad, beautiful barfly Wanda, gives a performance that yet again reminds us why she is a cinematic legend in her own time! She plays the subtleties and intricacies of Wanda with such aplomb, offering even this - the most pathetic of her roles - a dignity and a sad beauty that not many actresses can pull off.
The casting of this film deserves a round of applause! I've tended bar and worked in the sorts of joints where these all too real people can be found, and I felt as if I was right there again, pouring shots of bourbon, polishing glasses, and making certain that the brawls boiling in the bar get taken to the streets. Frank Stallone's swaggering, bully-of-a-bar tender, macho-man Eddie is hilarious! Gloria LeRoy as "Grandma Moses" the ancient prostitute infamous for her ability to "swallow paste" is priceless. I could go on and on, but I won't! Bukowski's male character counterpart is a macho, beer swilling, bare knuckle fighting, farting kind of man who some may not appreciate, considering that outside of the seedier bars in North America, these types of fellas are a dying breed. With males being force-fed the over-sensitive, turn the other cheek, annoyingly "metro sexual" kinds of roles models and ideals these days, it must be a strange look back over the evolutionary shoulder for some men to see the realities of people like Bukowski! Don't get me wrong - I'm not applauding all of the Chinaski character's behaviors, but I think that some guys could learn a thing or two about themselves from the worst example of the diametric opposite of what they've been told they should be. Sometimes a fight has to be - sometimes it's just plain pathetic, and both examples can be found in Barfly.
Bukowski has always dared to put to page whatever entered his head, and did so with a twisted lovely flourish.
Barbet Schroeder, the man behind such brilliant and critically acclaimed films such as "More" (1969), his work with director as Jean-Luc Godard, his contribution to French "Nouvelle Vague" or New Wave cinema, and his more mainstream flicks such as "Single White Female", places him in a category above many directors working in North America today.
With Barfly, Schroeder captures the gritty realities of lives given over to the excesses of substances and circumstances in a true-to-life way, as he did with his first film "More", a flick about heroin addiction done at a time when the subject was still considered very taboo. The musical score for Barfly supports this film perfectly, too, with the Hammond organ whirling out Booker T. Jones' "Hip Hug Her" as we P.O.V. our way through the film's first scene, past the bar sign, to the bar's door, and into the world of Henry Chinaski. This is all counter-pointed wonderfully by the use of Mozart and Beethoven under Rourke's voice-overs of Chinaski's writing.
To sum it all up - as much as I dig and respect Bukowski, I have to say that even though he wasn't a fan of the flick (long after its release I may add, and he was on set as an adviser and unaccredited cast member - why didn't he say something at the time?), I look at this movie as a wee gem and as a masterpiece daring enough to capture life's underbelly with an acuteness and accuracy many wouldn't dare to put to screen.
Tender and surprisingly straight to the heart romantic-comedy that
features Mickey Rourke (in one of his best roles) as Henry, a partially
hump-backed middle-aged man is proud to be a part-time poet and full-time
drunk who finds himself in a short-time, drawn to a fellow alcoholic,
(Faye Dunaway) and a civilized publisher, Tully (Alice
Director Barbet Schroeder patiencely takes the movie, which is based on the work and maybe, life of not-so-sober poet Charles Bukowski, and transforms it into a meaningful movie. Even the bar where Henry normally hangs out at, "The Golden Horn", has the same dreary, smoke-filled atmosphere that you'd find at any tavern, bar, or pub. A fitting tribute to anyone who goes to any bar.
That part of the movie that works wonders is the camera work of Robby Muller ("To Live and Die in L.A.", "Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai"), that captures the typical scene in a bar. You don't have to look too close to see the conversations and arguements.
"Barfly" is a different movie and it's worth watching on a rainy day or on the weekend.
Faye Dunaway's best work since Network! She really nailed this role. Mickey Rourke was superb, so sleazy you could almost smell him through the screen. His character's way of speaking and walking were such affectations that I would normally consider overacting, but here they were just right.
I've seen this movie several times... I really enjoy it, even though it
centers around the lives of two wretched drunks (played by Rourke and
Dunaway) who, if you met them in real life, would probably frighten you to
Though both of them are wretched souls indeed, there is nevertheless enough compassion, wisdom, and charm emanating from both of them to make them actually likeable screen characters. And you can't help but do a mental "double take" on many of the lines of dialogue: Rourke's character, with a sort of "beat" hipness, really makes you think about your own life and your own values.
The only flaw I could find was that, considering the incredible amount of drinking that is depicted, I felt it would have been more realistic to show Henry and Wanda having more horrible hangovers, maybe even with frequent vomiting attacks. But then again, maybe these are two people who really know how to hold their liquor. See it, and decide for yourself!
P.S.: NOT recommended that you watch this film if you are on the wagon and trying to stay on it!!
This has to be one my favorite movies. I found it very entertaining and fun, which is odd, considering the subject matter. The movie chronicles the misadventures of two talented, yet hopeless drunks. The dialog is snappy and the direction is wonderful. Mickey Rourke gives the film world a glimpse of just how great he could have been. Moreover, Dunaway shows why she will always be considered one of the top female leads of all time. **** out of ****
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