Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: Tales of Ordinary Madness

Charles Bukowski hasn't been a favourite of mine for over 20 years. I liked his books when I was 15 or so, but then they wore me out with their machismo. And then came Pulp, a very bad pastiche of hardboiled crime novel, which wasn't funny in the least. I might reread some of his novels in the near future, but we'll see if I really can make it. I remember, though, that Bukowski is a very easy and quick read.

All this leads me to the first film version of Bukowski's work. I saw Marco Ferreri's Tales of Ordinary Madness, based on a short story collection from the early seventies, already in 1986 or 1987, but just last night I saw it again. I didn't remember anything from it, save from the scene in which Ornella Muti pierces her cheek with a huge needle.

Tales of Ordinary Madness proved to be a pretty good film. Ben Gazzara is wonderful (if you can call him that) as Charles Serking (meaning Henry Chinaski, but they couldn't use the character's real name, due to the fact that Taylor Hackford owned it at that time). Serking is a sleazebag of a man, stalker, rapist, drunk, loudmouth, cynical asshole with nothing good to say about anyone. Yet we feel something for him, when he meets Cass, played by gorgeous Ornella Muti, a wreck of a human being working as a prostitute. Serking falls in love with Cass, and problems ensue. The film ends in a tragedy after Serking is lured to New York by a big publishing house, but he doesn't want to work for them.

Bukowski started where David Goodis left off. There's indeed something noirish in Tales of Ordinary Madness, its view of people of the streets, with no hope, with only their lust and booze. This is enhanced by Serking's hardboiled monologue with sentences out of a neo-noir novel. Gazzara's voice is low and brutal and he works well on those consonants.

Tales of Ordinary Madness, filmed in the US, but made with European money, is no B-grade flick. The decorations of Dante Ferretti and the photography of Tonino Delli Colli make sure it looks good even in the lowest depths of mankind.

More Overlooked Films here.

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