Movie Review
Factotum
2005
Director: Bent Hamer
Cast: Matt Dillon, Lili Taylor, Fisher Stevens
B


i bumped into Matt Dillon once in the Eighties in Vazaks’s horseshoe-shaped bar on Seventh and B in NY, down a block from the basement loft on Tomkins Square Park I was sharing at the time with a bunch of Minneapolis new wavers, the occasional immigrant post-punk, and the throbbing succubus-in-the-chrysalis herself, MTdiVa Maggie Estep. Stars don’t do it for me, generally, but immensely talented folks do. There’s a vibe, a presence, that you really only get from being close to ‘em… if you’re sober, that is, which I wasn’t when I met him. Or drinkin’ and smokin’ with ‘em, if they’re pals… which he wasn’t. And things happen, too. Dillon was younger then, the Dillon of Rumble Fish, the pre-Drugstore Cowboy and The Saint of Fort Washington Dillon. Vazak’s isn’t Jumbo’s Clown Room, Tom Waits’ hang (whom I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting in my cups), and New York ain’t Los Angeles. Factotum ain’t Barfly and Matt Dillon’s screwtop jug o’ wine, ice-cubes-in-a-plastic-cup, Pall Mall non-filters, acne vulgaris Henry Chinaski ain’t Mickey Rourke’s. Bent Hamer ain’t Barbet Schroeder, neither, but that’s where the s’milarities end. HA! Wha’ was I talkin’ ‘bout? Oh, yeah… Matt Dillon. Squarehead Hamer and Jim Stark—you got that right—the guy who wrote Mystery Train, wrote this sparse, spare, I’m told semper fi-delis adaptation of the book by ol’ Hank… tho’ I wouldn’ta knowed it, never read. Comedones, papules, pustules, nodules, inflammatory cysts: so many pus-filled, boil-like, tender swellings; so much “reduced self-esteem” and Depression. Norwegians know that of which they speak: alcohol. Aquavit crosses the equator twice for the wallop ya gotta pack in that ice. Smoothe out the… choppy. The mature Dillon is natural, organic, exquisite confusion; lumbering, drunk theatrics and echoes of Bukowski’s phrasing: husky, hoarse, coarse, divorce; his swagger and southpaw, peek-a-boo genius. March 4th, 1994. Remember that date, goddamit!! And, my god… John Fante! Hundred bucks a month for life to quit the Post Office Black Sparrow Press founderowner, John Martin. God bless ‘im. No, Vazak’s was/is? a gin mill, a juke joint. A splotchy, boozy, tobacco-spat, spirits-serving, packa smokes ginmilljukejointdive… sigh. Not some Beat... BULL-shit, man, c’mon! This is the natural slob. Work up a belch and say, "HEY, YOU DON'T LIKE IT? THEN GET YOUR ASS OUT OF HERE!" Always leaving but almost always coming back. Lili Taylor is scary, blanched, gooseflesh perfect. What the hell else she gonna play, now? L.A. ain’t Oslo, either. Lili Taylor is creeper. Slow burning, poor white trash creeper to Chinaski’s surefire, firewater, bet-the-farm loser factotum - “a person employed to do all kinds of work.” Writer. A Precious vs. Necessary writer; a “the struggle’s with myself” writer. An older Matt Dillon in the Eighties, not Bukowski’s book Forties. Still… the same rooming-house, diner-stolen, crummy, filthy, put-this-uniform-on, cigarette-burned business… only, like, now, sorta, y’know? Vinyl chairs. Fine Corinthian imitation leather. Ersatz. Ale orange/nicotine patina. A starving, $1,000-bucks-a-month, sozzled, busted bum. You’re fired, Chinaski. Fired, Chinaski. Chinaski, you’re fired! No Smoking. You’re fired. Fired. FIRED!! Sick, puking, chain-smoking Chinabukowski. Puking verse raw, fire in the hole, the beast in his belly… drifting, by choice, disciplined. Spilling his guts. Spending his last red cent. Crushing out Hope and Joy and Tomorrow in aluminium foil ashtrays on Formica bars. Hamer’s BLOCKING is… poetry. Jan and Hank fuck and drink and smoke and curse and fight and feud and fuss—apart, together, alone. And then the drifters drift apart and are alone and gotta move on; into the tubercular, gauzy, pimply, naked, Woolworth’s landscape. Ah, the hell with it. Vignettes. Odd jobs. This and that. Dead ends. Drink. Hard tack. Coffin varnish. Sneaky Pete. Fisher Stevens as Manny, a track buddy from the bicycle shop… spooky, dull-witted charm. Marisa Tomei’s Laura is delirium sequins: a stockinged, perfumed, liver-bashing lush who sucks the pickled blue blood of ex-patriot héritier Didier Flamand (Pierre), divine in his sloshy eccentricity. Lice, fleas, vermin all. Crabs. The sleazy, seedy, scabby white belly of bottom-feeding, “not ready for a novel yet,” 18 drunk-and-disorderlies/coupla Deewees Hank Chinaski. Reunion. “Here’s to swimmin’ with bow-legged women”… and salves! Sköl!


A Thanksgiving Prayer
by William S. Burroughs

Thanks for the wild turkey and the passenger pigeons, destined to be shit out through wholesome American guts.
Thanks for a continent to despoil and poison.
Thanks for Indians to provide a modicum of challenge and danger.
Thanks for vast herds of bison to kill and skin leaving the carcasses to rot.
Thanks for bounties on wolves and coyotes.
Thanks for the American dream, to vulgarize and to falsify until the bare lies shine through.
Thanks for the KKK.
For nigger-killin' lawmen, feelin' their notches.
For decent church-goin' women, with their mean, pinched, bitter, evil faces.
Thanks for "Kill a Queer for Christ" stickers.
Thanks for laboratory AIDS.
Thanks for Prohibition and the war against drugs.
Thanks for a country where nobody's allowed to mind their own business.
Thanks for a nation of finks.
Yes, thanks for all the memories—all right let's see your arms!
You always were a headache and you always were a bore.
Thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams.


By: Chris Panzner
Published on: 2005-12-16
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