Directed by: Bent Hamer
Starring: Matt Dillon, Lili Taylor, Fisher Stevens, Marisa
Released by: IFC Films
Short: Matt Dillon’s performance is
intoxicating as the drunken alter-ego of writer
Charles Bukowski, of "Barfly" fame.
and out in Minnesota
in the middle of “Factotum,” we had a flashback
to “Animal House.” In that classic 1970s comedy,
the college dean cautions one of the frat boys, “Fat,
drunk and stupid is no way to go through life.”
Hank Chinaski (Matt Dillon) may be very, very drunk, but
he is neither fat nor especially not stupid, and that
makes “Factotum” a heady movie.
factotum is a person who performs many jobs; in Hank’s
case, jobs he can manage despite his inebriation are:
breaking ice in an ice factory with a jackhammer, packaging
pickles, warehousing bike parts and driving a taxi (well,
applying to drive a taxi). Hank can bear it because his
inner motivation is elsewhere, as a writer. At its base,
“Factotum” is a very American tale of living
a grim existence in the service of one’s real goal.
shacks up with the equally addled Jan (Lili Taylor), and
together they meander through a Minnesota that Mary Tyler
Moore would never have recognized. Not even Puccini could
romanticize their bohemian lifestyle of SRO hotels, fixing
pancakes in their underwear and testing car door handles
in order to steal cigarettes from unlocked vehicles. “Factotum”
was Charles Bukowski’s second novel (he also wrote
the screenplay for "Barfly" and is recognized
as Hank’s alter-ego), and Dillon delivers perfect
deadpan musings in Bukowski’s voice to show what
happens when an acute brain meets day-to-day drudgery.
a movie about a writer, “Factotum” is admirably
spare in script and cinematography. Norwegian director
Bent Hamer (of 2003’s acclaimed Kitchen Stories)
creates artfully balanced shots filled with irony and
writerly detail, such as a clock that gains 35 minutes
each hour, or three men puffing away in an office in a
“no smoking” building.
disliked “Leaving Las Vegas” and other addiction
movies for a reason we didn’t understand until we
saw “Factotum”: in those films, the addicts
were pitiful. Not that we recommend you live like Hank,
but not once did he invite our pity. In fact, the experience
was somehow—dare we say it?—uplifting.