Sure, the video quality is terrible, but this rare archival footage of what was only Bukowski's fourth public poetry reading is worth it anyway. After all, when isn't Bukowski worth it?
Charles Bukowski, for the uninitiated, was a poet's poet, a non-conformist drunkard lumped unfairly into the "beat" genre. He may have shared some decades and some fans with Ginsberg and Fante, but no one cut through bullshit like Buk. Throughout the course of his clearly autobiographical writings it became clear that he just wanted two things out of life: to drink and to write. "You can do without a woman, but you can't do without a typewriter," he says to the Bellevue crowd. So it was an uneasy relationship he had with the public, even as it became clear that there was a demand for him to do public readings.
Bukowski at Bellevue captures the man in 1970 at his fourth-ever reading at—of all places—a community college in Washington state. The reading was captured on black and white videotape by two cameras. Sitting on a stage littered with clunky gear and the occasional gawking student, Bukowski reads from typewritten loose-leaf pages between drinks out of a Thermos.
The video is scratched and jittery, with frozen shots here and there as the sound, which is largely okay, continues. This isn't a DVD with which to demonstrate your new high-def set. It's an all-too-rare archival document of one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century.
Calling this a poetry reading is a bit of a stretch, as Bukowski didn't rhyme, didn't give a shit about anything like iambic pentameter, didn't deal in metaphors, similes and other flagrantly poetic hoo-ha. He told engrossing tales of whores and whiskey and mad combinations thereof.
The crude, ravaged, B&W archival video is akin to a time capsule, showing the man, in only his fourth ever, public reading, with a masterful command of not only his letters, but his voice and presence as well. Speaking of presence, one cannot help but look at Bukowski, tattered and torn, with his grim visage and gravelly voice and see a precursor to another modern bard, Tom Waits.
Dressed in a cheap shirt and black pants, it's a rare opportunity to see Bukowski read a dozen of his poems, giving unnatural life to the Losers and Lovers, the Skid Row Bums and Back Alley Prostitutes of his works. There are no fancy camera moves, and the stock itself has seen much better days, with it's shaky, scratched and grainy image, but the power of seeing this literary legend, this "ravaged lion" (his own words) is to great to nit-pick such details. As long as the soundtrack is there to bring his words to your ears is all that matters.
Poems included on this DVD are:
Soup, Cosmos and Tears
I Think of the Little Men
My Father Was…
The Night I Killed Tommy
A Last Shot on Two Good Horses
Drawing of a Band Concert on a Matchbook Cover
Kaakaa and Other Immolations
I Wanted to Overthrow the Government
Fire Station (For Jane With Love)
Something for The Touts, The Nuns, The Grocery Clerks, and You
Year.............: 1995 (Recorded in 1970)
Video Format.....: NTSC
Aspect Ratio.....: 4:3
DVD Source.......: DVD5
DVD Distributor..: Screen Edge
Program..........: DVD Decrypter
Average Bit Rate.: 5120 Kbps
. Chapter Menu with the names of all the read poems
. Short handwritten note from Bukowski to the organizer of the reading
Special thanks to flailer from 'Tik for the original upload.
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