Charles Bukowski, the gifted writer known for excess, booze, and self-abuse, wrote the short stories upon which “Barfly” is based.
The movie was directed by Frenchman Barbet Schroeder, then better known as producer, who would helm in three years the Oscar-winning “Reversal of Fortune,” starring Jeremy Irons and Glenn Close.
Facsinated and even obsessed with the material, Schroeder put pressure on Israeli producer Menachem Golan to make and distribute the indie.
Mickey Rourke (the Bukowski alter ego), then at the height of his career, plays Henry Chinaski, a slovenly, hard-drinking, fist-fighting scribe. A barfly, he is engaged in peculiar relationship with bartender Eddie (Frank Stallone).
Henry then meets and falls for another outcast, Wanda Wilcox (Faye Dunaway), who’s just as boozy as he is. A match made in heaven—not quite. They move in together, even though Wanda shows signs of mental and emotional unstable.
Henry seems to have a chance to clean up his act when he’s offered a commission for his writings by a rich and classy publisher named Tully Sorenson (Alice Krige), who becomes smitten with him. Soon, Henry ends up having a romance with her to some detrimental effects (when the jealous Wanda finds out).
To his credit, Schroder doesn’t glamorize or romanticize the squalor of boozy, no-good lowlifes, the way Mike Figgis does in “Leaving Las Vegas” (made in 1995), with Nicolas Cage as the suicidal alcoholic.
Rendering one of the strongest performance of his career, Rourke conveys vividly the details of an alcoholic’s life, never succumbing to being despicable or pathetic—with natural charm and authority, he makes the dubious character quite sympathetic.
Charles Bukowski, as well as Fritz “Pop!” Feld and Vance Colvig (who’s played many street people) make apperances in the movie bit parts.
Henry Chinaski (Mickey Rourke)
Wanda Wilcox (Faye Dunaway)
Tully Sorenson (Alice Krige)
Detective (Jack Nance)
Jim (J.C. Quinn)
Eddie (Frank Stallone)
Grandma Moses (Gloria LeRoy)
Janice (Sandy Martin)
Lilly (Roberta Bassin)
Ben (Joe Unger)
Running time: 100 Minutes
Produced by Barbet Schroeder, Fred Roos, and Tom Luddy.
Directed by Barbet Schroeder.
Written by Charles Bukowski.
Camera: Robby Muller
Editor: Eva Gardos
Production design: Bob Ziembicki
Costume: Milena Canonero.
Released: October 16, 1987.
DVD: Sep 3, 2002