Bukowski Comes Alive in ‘Girl on the Escalator’

By  · Published on March 15th, 2017

Short of the Day

A poem-inspired romp through misogyny.

“As I go toward the escalator/a young fellow and girl get on/ ahead of me./ her dress, her stockings are skin-/ tight./ she places one foot above the other/ upon the steps and her behind/ assumes its position./ the young man looks all/ about./ he appears worried./ he looks at me./ I look/ away.”

Thus begins “girl on the escalator” by easily the most romantic poet of the 20th century, the late great Charles Bukowski.

Okay, so maybe Buk wasn’t a romantic as much as he was a romancer, and yes, what follows in the poem is an undoubtedly misogynistic and thus controversial summarizing of a woman’s entire character based on how she wears a dress, but that’s what we expect from Bukowski, who by his own admission was a lousy drunk and only a slightly better human being. Though in his brief encapsulation of this woman, nee all women, Bukowski is actually revealing more about himself: his insecurities, his fatalism, his inadequacies, his fears, and yes, his inherent misogynistic tendencies, which permeate throughout his work.

Director Kayhan Lannes Ozmen has highlighted Bukowski’s flaws by adding comedic flair to his words in the following short named for the poem, Girl on the Escalator, in which actress Nicole Della Costa portrays the woman of Bukowski’s imagination in all her histrionic and hysterical qualities. Not a supporting work to Bukowski’s, Ozmen’s film instead seems to reclaim it for women, without satirizing the poet. That’s a delicate, deft balance but Ozmen and crew nail it.

And in case anyone misunderstands me, Bukowski is one of my favorite poets, not for his content but for his unabashed sense of self and the unapologetic way in which he lived his extremely, extremely flawed life. Girl on the Escalator, I think, feels the same way.

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