A window on the world of Charles Bukowski


Interviews are not what they used to be. In the 1980s, TV crews would show up to a person’s home at 4 p.m. and stay until 1 a.m., browsing various videotapes and bottles of wine, smoking, eating, sleeping with the cat, and making a must-read list that includes Dostoyevsky. Or at least they did it back when one Italian journalist in particular Silvia bizio was tasked with interviewing the American writer Charles Bukowski in 1981.

Nowadays, interviews are still done by phone (or worse, email) and there is often a publicist listening, who interrupts the call after 15 minutes and a second to bark the ultimate phrase: “You’ve got it.” one last question “.

But alas, journalists have not had to deal with this kind of horror in the past. And what a refreshing thing to see how slow reporting worked in a documentary called You Never Had It – An Evening With Charles Bukowski, which can be watched with Kino Lorber and Slamdance starting tomorrow August 7.

He follows Bizio as she visits Bukowski’s house in San Pedro, Calif., The house, the patio, his writing nook, his bedroom and his living room, asking him urgent questions about love, romance, success. , failure and fame. “But why?” she would persist in front of a writer whom many others would intimidate. The results are astounding, as his pressing questions have received a gold mine of answers.

Bukowski, the cult writer who lived from 1920 to 1994, was dubbed the “American Lowlife Laureate” and, through his books, invited his readers to follow him through an adventure of sex, drugs and bad attitude through the dark and seedy underworld of Los Angeles Nightlife, which today draws Denzians from literary tourists.

Some of his best books include Notes from a dirty old man from 1969, a compilation of his newspaper chronicles, to Post Office, from 1971, where he details his life as a postman, until he is 50 years old.

Although he took to writing late, Bukowski did not achieve immediate fame. “If you’re too well accepted you’re not doing a good job, you should always be ahead of your time,” Bukowski says in the film. “When your critics and readers agree with you, you’re not quite there.”

Although Bukowski was a popular writer, he hated other living writers. He kept away from the Writers of the Beat Generation like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, and asserted that it only takes four writers to understand good writing; John Fante, DH Lawrence, Louis-Ferdinand Céline and Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

Here, in this grainy interview, which was shot entirely on U-matic videotapes, years before VHS hit the mainstream, he says used car dealers and plumbers are better than the writers. “If they stand in front of a typewriter, they’re good people,” Bukowski says. “Get them away from a typewriter, they’re assholes. I am a writer. “

Sitting in his messy living room, he spoke most honestly when he criticized his work.

“There’s always someone saying ‘you don’t have it anymore’, which I slipped in, that’s something you live with,” Bukowski said. “You let them worry about your soul and keep doing good writing.”

He also spoke of fame as a problem for writers. “Praise tends to weaken, fame tends to weaken, fame is a form of praise,” he said. “If people hate you, you tend to stick with whatever you do and do it well and better. “

While he loved the loneliness (Bukowski once said he “feels better when the others aren’t around”), he made an impact on pop culture. In 1995, Sean Penn dedicated a film he directed to Bukowski, while Matt Dillon played a role based on Bukowski’s fictional character Henry Chinaski in the 2005 film adaptation of Factotum.

Irish rock band U2 credits Bukowski for their ’90s song Dirty day, while musical groups like Tom Waits, Modest Mouse, Arctic Monkeys and the Red Hot Chili Peppers have all hailed Bukowski as an influence.

A poignant moment of the interview is when Bukowski quotes one of his own poems (which is linked to the title of this documentary). “Humanity, you’ve never had it,” Bukowski recalls. “I don’t see the need to change this line at this time.”

Check with Kino Lorber and read some Charles Bukowski quotes here.

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