I am a huge fan of Charles Bukowski, his books, his poetry and even movies about him like Barfly (starring Mickey Rourke). But here’s a film that not many have been able to see, and it was only thanks to the wonderful people at Mondo Macabro that we are able to see this film in such a beautiful way as we do today. The story is divided in three chapters: the first involves young Harry Voss (Geert Hunaerts), who believes that true love is like in the movies, where people go through terrible trials to get what they want. It’s up to a friend who’s older and more experienced to teach him what sex is all about. This is the most erotic of all the three stories, as it features sex from a young child’s point of view, where sex seems like something almost other-worldly. The second story seems to give you a real fuck you when we cut to ten years later and Harry has grown up to become an awkward, socially-inept teenager with some of the worst acne imaginable. Too bad for him, since he has to go to the senior prom. At first the night is truly hell: the girl he likes is disgusted by his face, and so is the school slut, whom his friend is trying for him to sleep with. So he decides to do the best thing that comes to mind: wrap toilet paper around his face.
This sequence is truly mesmerizing, as we see our character, wrapped in bandages, dancing with the girl he loves, to the tune of Love Hurts (the original 60’s Everly Brothers version, not the Nazareth one). It reminded me of those classic monster movies, like Phantom of the Opera and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, where the character is nothing but a misunderstood misfit who wants to be loved. Unlike Erik and Quasimodo, here our lead is able to find happiness, even if only for a little while. He will soon find a mistress that will love him even more: whisky.
The third and final story is more directly based on the works of Bukowski, particularly “The Copulating Mermaid of Venice, California”. Here, Harry and his friend are now full-blow, depressing alcoholics, and in their stupor they decide to take a dead body from a hearse. When Harry views the dead body and reminds him of his first love, he begins to make love to it, much to the chagrin of his drunken buddy. After a night of necrophilia, Harry drives to the beach and walks onto the waters with the corpse of the woman, claiming it’s “too beautiful to bury”. His friend passes out, only to find that both Harry and the woman have been swallowed by the sea. This is truly one of the saddest and most beautiful moments in the history of cinema, as it is able to balance it’s rather unpleasant subject matter with that of true love, in ways that most movies wish they could be. The atmosphere is also very dark, and it’s shot almost like it was a gothic horror film, giving it much more of an edge. The only film I can compare it to is Joe D’Amato’s Buio Omega, which is also able to blend perfectly the beautiful with the macabre.
This movie is simply perfect. Perfect acting, production, the mix of emotions with music, and a third act that will truly shatter your senses and make you question what love truly means. I warn you however, that even if the film has comedic elements, it’s a very sad film about the downward spiral of a man who only wants to be loved. Bukowski fans will get it, and even if you’re not a fan of his, or ever heard of him, you will love this film. It is simply beautiful.