Factotum and Bombon

I went to see the film Factotum last week. I had very high hopes, partly because I had seen one or two good reviews, but mainly because the film is directed by Bent Hamer – with hinsight, his previous film Kitchen Stories is the best movie I have seen in the last couple of years. I was also interested in the fact that Factotum is based upon a book by Charles Bukowski – I don’t know a lot about the man, but during the hazy period when I borrowed David’s Bow flat for my weekly London visits I discovered a copy of Post Office there, picked it up out of curiosity and found it very hard to put down again.

So, I was expecting something truly wonderful, but in fact I would say the film was just “OK”. There was some great acting, and some interesting scenarios, but the whole thing felt rather thrown together, just a series of barely-connected events from the writer’s life with no real thread or purpose. A disappointment.

Far better was Bombón (El Perro), which I watched on DVD the night before last. This movie is set in Patagonia, somewhere I know only through Bruce Chatwin’s book, and the cold alien landscape and somewhat dismal lives of the people there matched the expectations the book had inculcated in me. It’s an incredibly warm film though: the hero is an old man, Juan “Coco” Villegas, down on his luck and recently made redundant from his job at a petrol station. He helps a woman whose car has broken down, tows her the 150km back to her mothers house, and is rewarded by being given the dog her recently deceased father had intended to start a dynasty with. It turns out that this dog is a perfect specimen of an Argentinian dogo, and together with the rough-hewn gentle giant dog expert Walter Donado, Juan sets off to exhibit the dog (called “Bombón of Lechien”) at shows around the country.

It’s about as weird a pretext for a movie as you can imagine, and the results are equally weird – a sort of road movie version of Best In Show transposed to the furthest-flung reaches of rural South America. But the characters are so rounded that you can’t help loving them, especially Juan, Walter and Juan’s “love interest”, the Arabic-singer (who doesn’t speak any Arabic) Susana.