With An Eccentric Eye (Factotum)

I'm going to try and make at least one post a month devoted to an odd film I've watched.  Seeing as how I've got quite the backlog on my Netflix Instant Queue this shouldn't be a problem.  These might be 'foreign' films (I use the term loosely since the web audience is obviously global) or art-house films, or quirky little dramas that few have heard about.  But they will without fail be films that won't appeal to everybody.  And just because I think a film is discussion-worthy for the purposes of this blog doesn't make it a blanket endorsement.  Nor should these be considered reviews.  I just feel that there are a lot of odd, quirky films that aren't blockbusters that have a lot to say.  Or, at the very least, will make you go, "Hmmm?"  What can I say, I love the underdog.  I hope this will be a section where those who are fed up with run-into-the-ground formulaic movies (don't get me wrong, I love a good action flick) will be able to get ideas for new things to watch.

Sometimes I may go in-depth with the movie, or it may simply be a suggestion to watch along with an observation or two.  But it will always be eccentric.  At least to my eye.  And my eyes have seen some pretty bizarre stuff in my time on this planet.

*   *   *

The first film up for discussion is called 'Fac-to-tum.'  The byline reads "a man who preforms many jobs," which is very appropriate, though I think they meant to say 'performs,' but that could be a typo on the part of Netflix.  The movie is from 2005 and stars Matt Dillon as Henry Chinaski, a would-be writer in World War II-era America.  Somewhat raunchy at times, it's about a writer who constantly sends off short stories for publication while searching for his muse in women and booze, and gets fired from pretty much every job he goes to.  It's for the most part a serious look inside one writer's life, but does have a couple laugh-out-loud moments.

I think one of the reasons I found this movie interesting was because it's based on a novel by Charles Bukowski.  There are three specific scenes in the movie that I'm going to quote below.  I haven't read the book to verify this, but I can imagine the director likely took them verbatim from the text.

These are internal dialogues of the main character where we, the viewer, get to hear what Henry is thinking.  They are taken from different sections of the film, usually when he is sitting at a desk writing or getting ready to send off a submission.  (Dillon does an excellent job doing the voice-over for these.)  I thought the quotes portrayed an interesting take on the starving-artist mentality that is so prolific in our culture.  But they also left me with a feeling that I can only describe as "The Courage to Write."  I wanted to post them here so those who don't feel like watching the movie or reading the book can benefit from them, and also so those who have seen the movie can comment.

Enjoy.  Discuss.  Or don't.  You choose.  Or don't choose.  (But then you'll never find out what happens to the cat, will you?  Schrodinger's cat, that is.)

 "As we live we all get caught and torn by various traps.  Writing can trap you; some writers tend to write but as please their readers in the past.  They hear accolades and believe them.  There is only one final judge of writing and that is the writer.  When he is swayed by the critics, the editors, the publishers, the readers, then he's finished.  And, of course, when he's swayed with his fame and his fortune you can float him down the river with the turds."

"Even at my lowest times I could feel the words bubbling inside of me.  And I had to get the words down or be overcome by something worse than death.  Words not as precious things but as necessary things.  Yet when I begin to doubt my ability to work the word, I simply read another writer and then I know I have nothing to worry about.  My contest is only with myself to do it right, with power and force and delight, and gamble."

"If you're going to try, go all the way.  Otherwise don't even start.  This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives, jobs, and maybe your mind.  It could mean not eating for three or four days, it could mean freezing on a park bench, it could mean jail, it could mean derision, it could mean mockery, isolation.  Isolation is the Gift; all the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it, and you'll do it, despite rejection in the worst odds, and it will be better than anything else you can imagine.  If you're going to try, go all the way.  There is no other feeling like that; you will be alone with the gods and the nights will flame with fire.  You will ride life straight to perfect laughter.  It's the only good fight there is."

(I wrote down each of these by listening to the film, so any errors are mine.)


  1. I must say, you caught just about everything that was worthwhile in that movie in those 3 paragraphs. :)

    The only bit I found funny was his decision to let his girlfriend throw a tantrum and split up with him on grounds of cheating, rather than admitting that he himself had cleaned up the apartment not some "broad". :)

    Matt Dilon's performance was magnificent, but other than that I must say I loathed Hank. That's just my gut reaction to people who are unwilling to get their act together because of some image they have of what it means to be an artist. If he would've coupled his talent with some sound life management, he might've been able to live off his writing.

    There's truth in going all the way if you really want something, but that also means making the best use of all our faculties and abilities, and that I missed in this movie.

    1. Yeah, that scene was pretty entertaining--just that fact that it was so utterly incomprehensible to her that he could have cleaned the place, so of course it must have been some broad who done it! ;)

      I was also amused by the stuff Henry did, like leaving the back door of the ice truck wide open cuz he decided to start having drinks at the bar in the middle of his shift. I guess maybe amused isn't the right word--more incredulous that anyone could care so absolutely little about the work they were doing, no matter how meaningless it was. I've always felt that everything we do, even something as miniscule as taking out the trash, is a reflection of who we are, so we should do everything to the best of our ability.

      Now having said that, I feel the odd need to come to Henry's defense a little. You have to keep in mind the time period this was occurring in. Not only was life, society, etc. a lot different back then, but we didn't have the knowledge about mental health that we do now. What if the main character was suffering from depression or some other mental affliction? I'm not saying he could've taken a pill and magically turned his life around, but just that maybe he was doing the best he could at managing his life. We don't know all the factors involved there, is all.

      Thanks for stopping by, Vero!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog