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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