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Factotum

A man of many different vices

For driven, competitive, Type-As, Factotumís Henry Chinaski (Matt Dillon) must be nothing short of appalling. Chinaski leads a life that is comprised almost exclusively of boozing, screwing, and wandering aimlessly from one mindless job to another. Oh yeahÖChinaski also likes to write stories no one wants to read.

Factotum charts the various trials and tribulations of Chinaski (aka Charles Bukowski) as he staggers through his marginal existence. This could be seen as depressing if Chinaski took anything particularly seriously. However, Chinaskiís attitude towards life seems to be generally characterized by a wry acknowledgement that life in general is absurd. To take anything too seriously is a grave misstep.

So, we watch Chinaski get fired from a pickle factory, fired from a job dusting statues, fired from a cab company, etc. Anyone whoís ever questioned exactly why the hell they bother doing what theyíre doing and why anyone cares will enjoy Chinaskiís "devil may care" attitude towards employment.

When Chinaskiís not busy getting fired, heís usually betting, getting inebriated or indulging in pleasures of the flesh with Jan (Lili Taylor). Who hasnít fantasized about living a life that revolves around pure hedonism and self-indulgence? Okay...some of it is self-destructive, but for all of the challenging situations Chinaski puts himself in, he at least seems free.

Norwegian director Bent Hamer does an excellent job of capturing the tone of Bukowski in Factotum. Alcohol drenched and world weary, every frame of the film feels dirty and aged. Much of the film takes place in smoky bars, dimly lit rundown offices, and other seedy locations. Hamer smartly complements the performances of his actors with settings, lighting, and angles that cast numerous shadows.

Speaking of performances, perennial "hearththrob", Matt Dillon does a remarkably effective job of portraying the scummy, apathetic Chinaski. Itís an astonishing transformation for Dillon. Admittedly, Dillonís innate physical attractiveness still comes through despite his clear attempts to dirty himself up for this role.

Complementing Dillon is Lili Taylor as Chinaskiís most consistent f-buddy, Jan. Jan leads a similarly marginal existence, spending most of her time in smoky bars and bouncing from shit job to shit job. While Chinaski and Jan are clearly well suited for each other, itís still not easy watching the two of them writhe lustily on a brown, sweat stained mattress.

In the end, weíre left with a film that does a convincing job of capturing the dark spirit of Charles Bukowskiís largely autobiographical work. Itís not a glamorous life Chinaski (aka Bukowski) leads, but the manís true to himself (as flawed as he may be) and thatís worth something.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars