Saturday, October 20, 2012

On The Road

Was reading my Cannes preview for this film and to my surprise found that I was expecting something very specific, take a look:

Great visuals ... a non-traditional narrative style (done in the editing room), hopefully interesting enough to find some similarities to the written style of the book -but I know this will be hard, still will be a great surprise. Last, good performances by actors that I know can do great character interpretations.

The most interesting thing is that I found in this movie exactly what I was expecting, which of course I absolutely forgot until I read the preview today.

First let me give a brief background. I am very familiar with Jack Kerouac, have read the On The Road novel a long time ago, know quite a lot about the Beat Generation, both as a literary movement as well as a cultural expression. The very first cultural expression that influenced and marked me was this one and I was extremely young, a kid. With all this in mind I have to admit that I highly enjoyed this Walter Salles film as yes, has great visuals, editing is just FANTASTIC, and performances are quite good with very special mention to Garret Hedlund that absolutely steals the movie.

But think I figured out why this movie has so many non-positive reviews from professionals as well as from many viewers. Seems that those that have seen movie and are familiar with Kerouac, as an era icon and/or the author of the novel, did not like the movie because the book has something the movie doesn't have: very rich language. I agree with them. Then those that are NOT familiar with Kerouac and/or the novel, find film without a narrative, fragmented, episodic, and boring. I understand them.

So, why did I liked this movie so much? In my opinion screenwriter José Rivera did an outstanding work with very difficult material, but Walter Salles was able to do with the script something that I find even more extraordinary. Salles was able to capture and show the "spirit" of the Beat Generation as a cultural expression. That's exactly what hit me hard while watching this film; maybe not from the beginning as yes, I started watching with a very analytical and skeptic eye. Honestly I was expecting NOT to like film. But there was a moment when I stopped seeing the great visuals and following the short sketches or fragments -if you wish- as I was completely lost, immersed into the "spirit" of what I was seeing. To me, this is shockingly surprising and truly amazing, as never imagined that Salles could be able to understand and so effectively transmit/show a primordially American culture expression.

Won't get into explaining how the Beat Generation manifested as a cultural expression but will share that what you literally see in movie has some "modifications" done probably to please this century audiences. I'm talking about the female characters that are too strong while in those years, in the Beat Generation literature, in the novel and in reality, were not as then cultural expressions were very male chauvinist oriented. The major consequence is that we see Dean Moriarty as a far less attractive figure than he is when seen exclusively from Kerouac's point of view. Besides this issue, I find that what literally was shown is a good interpretation of the Beat Generation "spirit".

More than the story of Sal Paradise (character channeling Jack Kerouac) to me this film tells the story of Dean Moriarty (character channeling Neal Cassady) so we are literally exposed to manifestations of sexual freedom -including homosexuality-, drugs consumption, jazz as body expression, rules/laws disdain, despise economic materialism, vigorously express a desire to live the moment as intensely as possible and more. To me those (and more) are elements that compose the "spirit" of the Beat Generation.

I know this film is NOT for general audiences, not even for those that enjoy non-mainstream, art films; tend to believe that this film has what I think is a very small niche target group as surely nowadays the Beat Generation is forgotten, left to history annals, gone into oblivion. Yes, I believe film could only move those that still recall the Beat Generation "spirit". Then surely will displease Kerouac fans, the novel fans, and everybody else, especially those that see movie looking forward to watch all the sex scenes, including the gay interest ones, as I think all sex scenes are truly not pleasant to watch.

I saw the shorter version which I highly regret as definitively I could have watched more fragments which were shown in the original version at 2012 Cannes. Tend to believe, according to the map in the preview, that the shorter version cut the trip to Canada and maybe more. Really hope that in the future we are able to watch the full version, the original version as shown in Cannes. Sigh.

Once I got into the film "spirit" I was absolutely mesmerized, doubt that many of you will have my experience that after the end left my head spinning for a long while; still, IF you dare to see film, I hope you will be able to enjoy this outstanding film.


Watch trailer @MOC

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