A few days ago I was at my favorite Half-Price Books. I went to the poetry section to see if there was any Bukowski. Sitting on the floor, was a red-headed girl thumbing trhough a leviathan compendium. I asked her what she was reading. Grinning she looked up at me and said "Selected works of T.S. Elliot." I replied with the truth, "Elliot is a brilliant poet." She smiled. The she asked me, "Who are you looking for?" My response was just as quick, "Oh I'm looking for Bukowski." The smile on her face instantly disappeared and was replaced with a scowl. "Oh." she dismissively said as she plowed her head back into her book. I laughed. Bukowski... he would have laughed as well.
Bukowski is a writer that evokes strong responses. He is either loved, or loathed. A "peoples poet" whose struggled to write of the common man in simply and directly. Of all the beats, Bukowski's work continues to outsell all. In his poetry his words are carefully laid. Yet be it his poetry or prose, there is always a glimpse of Bukowski staring back.
John Dullaghan, an man who had cut his teeth in advertising, sought to answer the question of who exactly was Bukowski. This investigation is found in his first feature length documentary Bukowski: Born into this (2004). Piecing together a huge ammount of footage Dullaghan tried to discover the man behind the myth. To accomplish this footage from interviews, poetry readings, and interviews with his friends (some of which included Sean Penn, Bono, Harry Dean Stanton, and his wife Linda Lee Bukowski to list a few. The language is strong.
Dullaghan thrusts the viewer into Bukowski. Bukowski is the best and worst of all the associations with him. Those that know him tell stories supporting the mythos surrounding him without any titles to tell us who they might be. Each voice building the image of what many know of him: hard working, hard drinking, and always ready to rumble. As the director is honest in his search of Bukowski, he shows the Buk being less than beautiful. At times he is bumbling drunk. At other times he is gruff and acerbic. In one disquieting scene he kicks and curses at his wife Linda int he middle of the interview.
In the journey, some surprising things are revealed. This facts like he did not 'know' a woman until he was twenty four one can laugh at. Meanwhile while when the viewer is taken to his childhood home where Bukowski recounts receiving a beating every other day by his father armed with a razor strap can make the viewer cry. This however was the world of Bukowski, and is so much like his writing. In his expansive search for truth, Dullaghan found that the line seperating the Bukowski of his writings and the real Bukowski is razor thin. The man wrote as he lived and lived as he wrote.