out of Five
Running time: 93
Opens London Film Festival: 2nd November
Factotum’s rambling, anecdotal approach might seem like a bit of a gamble but it pays off nicely, thanks to superb performances and a script that crackles with delicious dialogue.
Factotum is directed by Norwegian director Bent Hamer, whose quirky Kitchen Stories
wowed the 2004 London Film Festival before gaining a theatrical release early this year. It’s based on the writings of Charles Bukowski and takes a semi-autobiographical stumble around his life before he found fame as an author.
The title refers to a man who does many jobs and proves especially apt in the case of Bukowski’s thinly-veiled alter ego Henry Chinaski (Matt Dillon), who keeps getting fired from a succession of dead-end jobs, usually for drink-related reasons, although at least once it’s for beating someone up.
Chinaski’s various jobs include taxi-driver, ice-delivery man and pickle factory worker, but what he really wants to do is earn a living from his writing so he can get on with the serious business of gambling, womanising and drinking himself into oblivion.
There isn’t really much of a plot – the film unfolds at a leisurely pace and takes the form of a series of incidents and anecdotes, which works surprisingly well. In particular, the film depicts Chinaski’s relationships with the various women in his life, including quirky sex-fiend Jan (Lili Taylor) and Marisa Tomei’s barfly vamp.
Dillon gives one of his best performances as Chinaski and his deadpan delivery of Bukowski’s prose in the voice-over scenes is a joy to behold. It’s a testament to Dillon’s performance that Chinaski remains likeable, even when he’s indulging in objectionable behaviour.
In short, much like Chinaski himself, Factotum has a scruffy lowlife charm that gets under your skin and works its magic, thanks to Hamer’s offbeat direction, a quotable script and a superb performance by Matt Dillon.
Factotum (A Man Who Performs Many Jobs) (15)