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.