Synopsis by Nathan Southern
The five-star European director Barbet Schroeder - the creative force behind such efforts as Reversal of Fortune, Maitresse and La Vallée - in 1986 created one of the most surprising, shocking and delightful features of our time with the seriocomedy Barfly (1987). Schroeder, of course, directed the film from the semi-autobiographical script by "gutterbucket skid row poet" Charles Bukowski (who in turn based the central character on himself); the finished film received a Golden Palm nod at Cannes and much concomitant acclaim, largely thanks to the shattering central performance by a nearly unrecognizable Mickey Rourke. Lesser known about the motion picture is the fact that Schroeder and Bukowski (who died in 1994) spent a massive amount of time together during seven years of pre-production - with the poet boozing, pontificating and rhapsodizing on various aspects of life. Inveterate filmmaker Schroeder couldn't resist filming these sessions, and they form the basis of his documentary The Charles Bukowski Tapes. For the final product (which totals four hours), Schroeder opted to cut the material up into fragments of a few minutes per take, to best capture Bukowski's wit. What emerges is a multifaceted biographical portrait of a complex, somewhat tortured, yet emotionally ebullient and transcendent individual who reshaped American literature in a defiantly original way.