Charles Bukowski’s Controversial Poem “Girl on the Escalator” Gets Literally Retold in a New Short Film

Everyone’s favorite alcoholic poet and dirty old man Charles Bukowski was hardly what you’d call a romantic, though he had a softer side: a vulnerability and compassion for the lonely, poor, and suffering. But we don’t love Bukowski because he prettied up the nasty business of being human. We love him—those of us who do (I won’t presume to speak for his detractors)—because he was honest: about his own desires and disappointments, about the beauty and the sordid ugliness of things. Mostly the ugliness.

Often the ugliness in Bukowski’s work comes from Bukowski himself—or the voice he adopts of the leering old man on the corner who makes women cross the street: voyeuristic, sardonic, imaginative, self-aware, miserable, embittered, contemptuous…. We see this Bukowski encountering strange women—sometimes ogling, sometimes sneering—in poems like “The Girl Outside the Supermarket,” “Girl in a Miniskirt Reading the Bible Outside My Window,” and “Girl on the Escalator,” all in their way offering candidly narcissistic insights into the male gaze and male ego.

In “Girl on the Escalator,” Bukowski’s speaker both ogles and sneers, and drifts into an imaginative fugue as he constructs a fantasy life for the “girl” of the title, then deconstructs her in the grossest, most visceral way. Feminist he ain’t, and the new short film above, created by Kayhan Lannes Ozmen, gives us a very literal interpretation of every one of the poem’s images, as a deadpan narrator reads Bukowski’s poem. One fan recommends that you read the poem yourself (find it here) before watching the film, and see what you make of it first. I’d agree, but that is, of course, up to you.

via Nowness

Related Content:

4 Hours of Charles Bukowski’s Riotous Readings and Rants

Four Charles Bukowski Poems Animated

“Don’t Try”: Charles Bukowski’s Concise Philosophy of Art and Life

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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Comments (8)
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  • james says:

    just wondering who plays that bo didley song on this soundtrack?

  • Kelsey says:

    Bukowski’s poem is a modern take on Baudelaire’s “Une Charogne” from Les Fleurs du Mal. No wonder it’s controversial; it’s inspired by a poem written by a guy who thought that women were the source of all evil.

  • james says:

    i’m pretty sure its bo didley playing his song at the end. Cool video for the story

  • bruce says:

    think it is a misreading to see it as an antifeminist/anti-woman piece. If it’s anything it’s a comment that is anti-male. How a woman’s appearance can make up for anything else in a man’s mind. That is until he gets to know her, if he ever does, if he ever can.

  • jacques falasquez says:

    There’s nothing better than a young, refreshing and replenish scoop at bed time: this CB-inspired shorts are just what it needed to answer the shower of Scripters and Directors’ cuts that comes from the Silicon Valley. Never read Beat-Gen novels, I only remember my ol’ uncle passing-byes’ suggestion each and every sunday on little sketches, upon which my fantasy ran and body consequently started preserving memory of concrete sensations. CB-non sinner, magnified and devulgarized poetry has much to tell this Trash Culture we live in: “She Came in Thru The Bathroom Window” left by as a boot-leg resonate in my mind.

  • Jedd says:

    Why, Bo Diddley of course!

  • Pog says:

    If only they had Tom Waits reading the script, it would have been perfect.

  • Banana says:

    Bukowski or the poem is what you describe only if you don’t know how to read Bukowski and poetry under the surface.

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