Bukowski wrote in an unaffected style about unaffected ideas. He had no time for metaphor, a friend notes in the documentary. He told you about his life, whether at work, at the racetrack or on the toilet. Certainly these dirty fingerprints are all over today's popular reading. Four-letter words are now as common in print as they are on the street. The constant emphasis on the writer of a piece has become a tedious amateurism. But if "Born Into This" has its own theme, it's not how Bukowski has inspired the writers of today. Oddly enough, the film is one of those wonderfully rare documentaries that focus squarely on their subject, no matter how discomfiting that may be.
Bukowski died in 1994, and almost all the footage in the film was shot by people other than the director, John Dullaghan. Though we get some establishing shots and a few excursions into related territory, Bukowski is never far from the frame. This style offers a limited context, both of the milieu (L.A.) and the other major talents of the era (Hunter S. Thompson immediately comes to mind). The result often feels claustrophobic and limited, but that, too, may be apropos to the subject.
"Born Into This" never bores, but, also like Bukowski, it isn't perfect. That, too, is part of the charm. You will not walk away knowing how this man who wrote of laundry and hangovers fits into the larger world, but you will get an up-close-and-personal view of him. As nasty and common as this view often is, you will likely be the better for experiencing it. Wayne Melton
Style Weekly's mission is to provide smart, witty and tenacious coverage of Richmond. Our editorial team strives to reveal Richmond's true identity through unflinching journalism, incisive writing, thoughtful criticism, arresting photography and sophisticated presentation.
We make sense of the news; pursue those in power; explore the city's arts and culture; open windows on provocative ideas; and help readers know Richmond through its people. We give readers the information to make intelligent decisions.