Born Into This (2003) is a film documentary on the life of poet and author Charles Bukowski
. Directed by John Dullaghan
and starring Charles Bukowski, Sean Penn
, Tom Waits
and Harry Dean Stanton
the feature includes many other people from Bukowski's life including his wife (Linda) and daughter, John Fante
's mother, Joyce, and an array of past lovers.
Bukowski (1920-1994) was a writer slightly after the Beats whose work on bar brawls, seedy prostitutes, low paying jobs and life as we see it earned him a cult status first in L.A., then the U.S.A, then worldwide.
Running for 130 minutes the documentary follows Bukowski's everyday life (from archive footage) in the same style his novels follow the life of Henry Chinaski and others. Showing the suprisingly gentle-voiced man behind the sometimes brutal stories of sex, booze and poverty. The documentary focusses on Bukowski's refusal to join the phony, plastic world of dead men at a typewriter. From readings and interviews done by a Bukowski so drunk that he threatens his audience with violence and vomits before even making it to the stage, to a trip in his car to the laundromat he likes best, this documentary does not glorify Bukowski, but shows him as an everyday guy with a passion and, ironically, a lot of self-discipline.
The documentary also covers Bukowski's lonely childhood with an abusive father, then as an adolescent racked with acne which would later scar his face, before moving into his lifetime of menial jobs including his 14 years at the Post Office. Bukowski's wife Linda speaks about his death and a shot of the headstone is shown with the name Henry Charles Bukowski, and embossed underneath "Don't Try."
The endearing thing about Bukowski in this documentary is the candor with which he speaks about his dilapidated life. The film ends in removing his hardened mask with a reading of his poem "Bluebird," revealing the soft, human side often smothered in his stories of bravado.