Monday, October 12, 2009

Bukowski on music and movies

The DVD of Barbet Schroeder's The Charles Bukowski Tapes (click to view number 2) has recently gone out of print. The two disc set consists of 52 short interview segments with Bukowski, a few of which will be familiar to those who have seen the 2003 documentary Born into This. For anyone interested, the film is still currently available through Netflix. I watched it last week, and it has put Bukowski on my mind, causing me to revisit his work.

The following is an excerpt taken from a journal entry Bukowski made Febuary 27th, 1993 that was published posthumously in The Captain Is Out to Lunch and the Sailors Have Taken Over the Ship.

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"Why are there so few interesting people? Out of the millions, why aren't there a few? Must we continue to live with this drab and ponderous species? Seems their only act is Violence. They are so good at that. They truly blossom. Shit flowers, stinking up our chance. Problem is, I must continue to interact with them. That is, if I want the lights to go on, if I want this computer repaired, if I want to flush the toilet, buy a new tire, get a tooth pulled or my gut cut open, I must continue to interact. I need the fuckers for the minute necessities, even if they, themselves, appall me. And appall is a kind word.

But they pound on my consciousness with their failure in vital areas. For instance, every day as I drive to the track I keep punching the radio to different stations looking for music, decent music. It's all bad, flat, lifeless, tuneless, listless. Yet some of these compositions sell in millions and their creators consider themselves true Artists. It's horrible, horrible drivel entering the minds of young heads. They like it. Christ, hand them shit, they eat it up. Can't they discern? Can't they hear? Can't they feel the dilution, the staleness?

crumb bukowski
I can't believe that there is nothing. I keep punching in new stations. I've had my car less than a year yet the button I push has the black paint completely worn off. It is white, ivory-like, staring at me.

Well, yes, there is classical music. I finally have to settle for that. But I know that is always there for me. I listen to that 3 or 4 hours a night. But I still keep searching for other music. It's just not there. It should be there. It disturbs me. We've been cheated out of a whole other area. Think of all the people alive who have never heard decent music. No wonder their faces are falling off, no wonder they kill thoughtlessly, no wonder the heart is missing.

Well, what can I do? Nothing.

The movies are just as bad. I will listen to or read the critics. A great movie, they will say. And I will go see said movie. And sit there feeling like a fucking fool, feeling robbed, tricked. I can guess each scene before it arrives. And the obvious motives of the characters, what drives them, what they yearn for, what is of importance to them is so juvenile and pathetic, so boringly gross. The love bits are galling, old hat, precious drivel.

I believe that most people see too many movies. And certainly the critics. When they say that a movie is great, they mean it's great in relation to other movies they have seen. They've lost their overview. They are clubbed by more and more new movies. They just don't know, they are lost in it all. They have forgotten what really stinks, which is almost everything they view.

And let's not even talk about television."

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In The Captain Is Out to Lunch and the Sailors Have Taken Over the Ship, Bukowski is at his most misanthropic and despairing. And lonely. He died just over a year after the final entry.

"We're all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn't. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing."

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Here is an excerpt from Howard Sounes' biography Charles Bukowski: Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life. It's the only specific information I have regarding Bukowski's taste in movies:

"Bukowski was not overawed by film actors because he had little regard for their work. He could count on the fingers of one hand the films he liked. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and All Quiet on the Western Front would be among them. Being more culturally sophisticated than is generally supposed, he also liked Akira Kurosawa's work and his all time favorite movie was Eraserhead. Bukowski demonstrated his dislike for mainstream movies, and their stars, when he met Arnold Schwarzenegger in September, 1985, at a birthday party for Michael Montfort's wife. For no particular reason, other than he felt like picking a fight, Bukowski told Schwarzenegger he was a piece of shit. "Hank was certainly not overly impressed with any of it," says Harry Dean Stanton. "He didn't care much for many movies, as I don't. Anybody who is perceptive is not going to talk about the thousands of great movies. It is relative to any art form. Excellence in any field is always a rarity.'"

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from The Charles Bukowski Tapes:

"Anybody that can see the opposite of what’s going on, I think is exceptional. Any place you go, if you see 50 people standing in one line and 4 people standing in another, you know which line to get into, dontcha baby? The masses are always wrong. Wisdom is doing everything the crowd does not do. All you do is reverse the totality of their learning and you have the heaven they’re looking for. It’s a basic wisdom, whichever way the crowd goes, run the other direction. Through centuries they’re always wrong and they will always be wrong."

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