Like Howard Brookner's 1985 film about William Burroughs, this profile of poet and novelist Charles Bukowski exploits the writer's counterculture persona but also works to dispel it, revealing a gifted and extremely complicated man. Beaten routinely as a child and scarred by acne as a teenager, Bukowski spent much of his early adulthood as an alcoholic postal worker; only in the 70s did his laserlike commitment to his writing bring him fame and material comfort. Taking a lesson from his subject, director John Dullaghan abandoned a career in advertising to create this portrait, but it's no hagiography. In footage from the 70s and 80s (much of it shot by Barbet Schroeder and Taylor Hackford) and in penetrating interviews with Bukowski's women, the writer emerges as a horribly damaged soul, a cynic taunted by hope, and a harsh man given to surprising displays of tenderness. 113 min.