Bukowski: Born into This is a documentary that looks at the life of poet and author Charles Bukowski, who published more than forty-five books of poetry and prose, including Pulp, Love is a Dog From Hell, and The Last Night of the Earth Poems. His writing often featured downtrodden members of American society, graphic language, violence, and sexual imagery. Many of his works center around a roughly autobiographical figure named Henry Chinaski. His vivid portrayals of alcoholism and poverty earned him a cult following.
Directed by John Dullaghan, Bukowski: Born Into This is the first comprehensive documentary of the writer's life. The film combines television interviews with recollections by former drinking buddies, teenage friends, fellow postal workers, writers, girlfriends, and his second wife, Linda. There are also cameos by Sean Penn, Bono, Tom Waits, and Harry Dean Stanton.
The documentary also draws on film clips, including Barbet Schroeder's 1987 movie, Barfly, starring Mickey Rourke as Bukowski, and based on his novel by the same name. Dwight Garner, writing for the New York Times, said, "If all you know about Charles Bukowski is Mr. Rourke's performance in Barfly, Mr. Dullaghan's movie will come as an acidic and much-needed corrective."
Though brutal and violent, like the life of its subject, the film is also funny and moving. Film critic Stephen Holden explains in the New York Times, "The portrait that emerges is of a cantankerous misanthrope zestfully living out his legend as a profane realist and professional lowlife, whose lean, brutal literary style allowed no sentimentality."