BARFLY (Barbet Schroeder)
I could easily see someone unfamiliar with the works of Charles Bukowski seeing this film and saying, “Wow, that was really good. Different. Kind of strange and unique. Something very real abut it.” Anyone who does know and love his writings (like me) has to celebrate, revisit and revel in this film.
Bukowski wrote the screenplay as a synthesis of much that he had lived and written of before. His friend and confidante Barbet Schroeder directs. It is the most successful of all the films based on Bukowski’s works. (FACTOTUM (2006) gets an honorable mention.) Poignant, sad, hilarious, human. For the record, I love the choice to go with Mickey Roarke as Bukowski’s alter-ego Hank Chinaski. Even without having a physical resemblance, Rourke’s performance is an underrated tour-de-force.
For further enlightenment, I strongly recommend THE BUKOWSKI TAPES on DVD, interviews with the man by Schroeder at Bukowski’s home in San Pedro during the development of BARFLY. Priceless. Also Bukowski’s novel, “Hollywood” a thinly disguised chronicle of the making of the film.
MOONSTRUCK (Norman Jewison)
Big Oscar-winner for Cher and screenwriter John Patrick Shanley, and just a great example of how everything can come together when movie pixie-dust lands on everyone. Norman Jewison was just the right guy to accentuate the positive virtues of Shanley’s truly original screenplay, not to mention the very particular qualities of what at first glance seems like an unlikely cast. Nicolas Cage, we remember you when!
WINGS OF DESIRE (Wim Wenders)
In Wim Wenders’ hit-and-miss career, this one ranks among the home runs. It was an international success, while still being a very personal film. Wenders always has a lyrical quality to his films, but this one has moments of special beauty and pathos. Sometimes heartbreaking, Bruno Ganz is wonderful as an emissary straddling two worlds.
THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK (George Miller)
Sure, it’s a big-budget, star-driven, high-concept commercial movie. But not all of those types are shallow and vapid. This one could have been a disaster, but everyone just shines. The devil himself, Jack Nicholson gets to go over the top to great effect. But it’s the ladies (Michelle Pfeiffer, Cher and Susan Sarandon) who more than hold their own. The production and the supporting players are so good that you just want to go along for the ride.
WITHNAIL AND I (Bruce Robinson)
A truly off-the-wall, one-of-a-kind, out-of-nowhere masterpiece. Sprung from the mind of Bruce Robinson, this tale of two unemployed British actors at the end of the 60’s is as original and hilarious as its cult reputation suggests. Richard E. Grant’s inspired performance (in his very first film) justly kick-started his career. An absolute gem.