Watch The Charles Bukowski Tapes
The Charles Bukowski Tapes is a 1985 documentary-style film that captures the essence of one of the most prominent and controversial figures in American literature - poet and novelist Charles Bukowski. The film features an exclusive, up-close-and-personal interview with Bukowski, where he narrates his life story, reads some of his poetry, and talks about his views on society, art, love, and everything in between. The interview is conducted by accomplished filmmaker Barbet Schroeder, who met Bukowski in 1981 and befriended him over the years. The film is co-directed by Schroeder and Bukowski's wife Linda Lee Bukowski.
The movie opens with footage of Bukowski at his home in San Pedro, California, where he spent most of his life. He is shown sitting in his cluttered, book-filled room, smoking a cigarette, and looking like a quintessential anti-hero - unshaven, unkempt, and coolly defiant. He starts talking about his early life and how he grew up in poverty, abuse, and neglect. He mentions his father, who was a cruel, violent man, and his mother, who was distant and aloof. He describes how he started drinking at a young age, and how it became his lifeline to cope with the harsh realities of life.
As the interview progresses, Bukowski talks about his writing and how he got into it. He admits that he never planned to become a writer, but that life forced him to express himself through words. He talks about his love for the short story form and his disdain for the novel, which he considers a bloated, overrated genre. He reads some of his stories, including "The Copulating Mermaid of Venice, California" and "Six Inches", which showcase his raw, unflinching style and his dark, satirical humor.
Bukowski also talks about his relationships with women, which were a constant source of inspiration and frustration for him. He describes how he loved women for their beauty and their spirit, but also hated them for their fickleness and cruelty. He talks about his long-term relationship with Linda Lee Bukowski, who he calls his "savior", and how she helped him quit drinking and become a better person. He also talks about his affair with a famous actress, who he refuses to name but who is widely believed to be Barbet Schroeder's then-girlfriend, Bulle Ogier.
Throughout the film, Bukowski comes across as a complex, contradictory figure - part genius, part buffoon, part rebel, part conformist. He is at once charming, vulgar, witty, and cynical, and his words are both hilarious and heartbreaking. He rails against the mediocrity and conformity of American society, yet he revels in its sleaziness and grittiness. He bemoans the state of literature and art, yet he acknowledges the power and beauty of language and image. He is a self-proclaimed outlaw and a poet of the underclass, yet he craves recognition and validation from the literary establishment.
The Charles Bukowski Tapes is a must-see for anyone who is interested in Bukowski's life and work, or in the history of American literature and counterculture. It offers a rare glimpse into the mind of a true original, a man who lived life on his own terms and left an indelible mark on the literary landscape. The film is expertly crafted and beautifully shot, with a raw, gritty aesthetic that reflects Bukowski's sensibility. It is also peppered with archival footage and photographs that bring Bukowski's world to life. All of these elements add up to a compelling portrait of a complex, flawed, and fascinating artist.