On the Road

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Re: On the Road

Postby Sabin » Wed May 23, 2012 10:03 pm

Huh. This film may be kinda good. Who knew?
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Re: On the Road

Postby Sonic Youth » Wed May 23, 2012 4:05 pm

On the Road
By Justin Chang
Variety


A classic novel's long journey to the bigscreen comes to a gratifying but not exactly triumphant end with "On the Road," a handsome visual companion to Jack Kerouac's Beat Generation touchstone that seems unlikely to occupy a place of similar resonance in the hearts and minds of those who see it. Evocatively lensed, skillfully made and duly attentive to the mercurial qualities of its daunting source material, Walter Salles' picture pulses with youthful energy but feels overly calculated in its bid for spontaneity, attesting to the difficulty and perhaps futility of trying to reproduce Kerouac's literary lightning onscreen.

IFC/Sundance Selects' pre-Cannes pickup should draw robust specialty returns with a fall marketing campaign emphasizing the film's pedigree and attractive cast, a potent combo of prestige and sex appeal that should have especially strong pull with younger viewers.

Widely considered unfilmable despite the movies' long-running love affair with the open road, Kerouac's semi-autobiographical tale of wanderlust and self-discovery has passed through the hands of innumerable writers and directors since exec producer Francis Ford Coppola bought the rights in 1978. Kerouac himself asked Marlon Brando to spearhead a movie version in the late '50s, an era whose social, moral and cinematic climate would scarcely have allowed the type of picture that has emerged more than half a century later.

Salles and screenwriter Jose Rivera previously tackled a story of idealistic young men traveling cross-country in "The Motorcycle Diaries," and here they seek to render Kerouac's recollections of postwar America in a vibrant, present-tense idiom. To that end, the film employs a jittery syntax -- fleet handheld camerawork, frequent jump cuts and a swinging jazz score that erupts at regular intervals -- to supply a superficial equivalent of the author's restless prose, supplemented with abundant helpings of sweaty sex and occasional nudity.

In keeping with the improvisatory Beat spirit, Rivera's script necessarily truncates the novel's incidents and incorporates elements from Kerouac's famous original scroll. That much is clear from the outset when Sal Paradise (Sam Riley), an aspiring French-Canadian writer living in 1947 Queens, N.Y., references his dad's recent death -- a scroll-specific detail employed here to impose an overt fathers-and-sons theme on the material.

Not long after the funeral, Sal meets handsome Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund), the skirt-chasing, marijuana-smoking, car-stealing rascal who, as modeled after Beat icon Neal Cassady, serves as the story's irrepressible, irresistible central figure. First seen opening a door stark naked (not for the last time), Dean is the life of a seemingly endless party, loved by his moody wife, Marylou (Kristen Stewart), and lusted after by young poet Carlo Marx (Tom Sturridge). Exerting a gravitational pull on Sal, Dean implores his new friend to join him later out West.

Hitchhiking his way to Denver, Sal finds Dean carrying on with not only Marylou but also classy blonde Camille (Kirsten Dunst). Dean continues to toggle between the two women throughout, confusing things further by occasionally coaxing Sal into joint lovemaking sessions with Marylou. While the two men never act on the homoerotic underpinnings suggested by their affectionate relationship, the film is fairly candid about Dean's sexual availability to either gender, provided there's something in it for him.

Having retraced Kerouac's routes in preparation for and during the shoot, the filmmakers work hard to impart a sense of texture and duration to Sal's travels, distilling minor episodes into brief scenes and carving out a longer narrative arc from the book's essential passages. A New Orleans visit with Sal's morphine-addicted mentor Old Bull Lee (Viggo Mortensen) and subsequent misadventures in San Francisco, New York and Mexico collectively form a whirlwind of incident that doesn't suggest the raw confusion of early adulthood so much as the compromises and sacrifices of an imposing screenwriting task.

Salles compensates to some degree with a certain stylistic verve, stimulating the film's rhythms with jazz-band interludes and close-up dance sequences. Yet despite the high level of craft here, it's an inadequate substitute for the thrilling, sustaining intelligence of Kerouac's voice.

Admittedly, any definitive adaptation would have to adopt a radically avant-garde approach to approximate the galvanic impact Kerouac's novel had on literary form. But even audiences content with an easy-listening version may be put off by the weak conception of Sal's inner life. The blur of events and surface impressions onscreen consequently feels overlong at 139 minutes, yet nowhere near long enough, and even Riley's appealing, bright-eyed turn can't keep Sal from seeming a passive, psychologically weak protagonist.

The other actors hit their notes effectively, particularly Mortensen and Sturridge as the respective alter egos of William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg; and Stewart and Dunst, whose warm, emotionally accessible turns lend Marylou and Camille more flesh and character than they had on the page. But the meatiest thesping opportunities naturally go to Hedlund, who brings a winning, boyish quality to the id-on-legs that is Dean Moriarty. Though propelled by a feverish, even convulsive energy, Hedlund also gets moments of quiet reflection that encourage sympathy for Dean's irresponsible behavior.

A tour de force of location scouting, the film revels in the beauty of American highways, bridges and landscapes that, as showcased by Eric Gautier's crisp, lush widescreen photography, perfectly illustrate what Sal at one point calls "the purity of the open road."
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Re: On the Road

Postby Sonic Youth » Wed May 23, 2012 4:01 pm

On the Road: Cannes Review
by Todd McCarthy
Hollywood Reporter


Walter Salles's adaptation of Jack Kerouac's generation-defining novel is vibrantly visualized and features a "perfect" Kristen Stewart.
Making a screen version of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road has been an elusive fantasy for numerous filmmakers in the 55 years since the Beat classic was published. Brazilian director Walter Salles, the man who finally got to realize the dream, has done a respectable job of it, and at moments better than that, though the film rarely busts out to provide the sort of heady pleasures it depicts.

Opening in France and some other territories on the heels of its Cannes Film Festival premiere, but not in the United States until autumn via IFC and Sundance Selects, this France-Brazil co-production is fronted by a very attractive cast and is highly promotable to a sophisticated public familiar with the material. Still, the film’s ultimate success will hinge upon whether younger audiences can connect with this vibrantly visualized period piece about the birth of the American counterculture.

Kerouac fantasized about co-starring as himself opposite Marlon Brando’s Dean Moriarty, and several directors -- most prominently Francis Ford Coppola, an executive producer here -- wrestled with an adaptation. Set over a few years beginning in 1947, On the Road is the story of youthful searching, yearning and striving for experience and truth by a handful of hipsters in their early 20s who, very much against the grain of a conformist period, eagerly embraced drugs, experimental sex, black culture and jazz, and life outside the yoke of steady work and conventional family constraints. In modern parlance, they pioneered an alternative lifestyle; the fact that they looked scruffy and wore T-shirts and jeans makes the characters onscreen resemble normal kids anytime from the late-‘60s until today.

Kerouac famously wrote the book in a three-week creative spasm on a single 120-foot scroll, and Salles has attempted to find cinematic equivalents to the author’s fluid, jazzy, quicksilver prose. The colors are intense, looks and gestures are fleetingly caught, rhythms are varied to convey highs and lows of perception and sensation. A feeling of great fidelity to and high regard for the material courses through Jose Rivera’s adaptation and Salles’ directorial attitude (the pair effectively warmed up for this road trip with The Motorcycle Diaries eight years ago).

But there are several barriers to representing On the Road in effective movie terms. First is the lack of dramatic structure; the book is about several journeys, each eventful in its own way, but it remains fitfully episodic. The filmmakers deal with this by making a climax out of Kerouac finally breaking through his creative block and writing the book, but the lonely spectacle of an author typing has never proved cinematically interesting and still doesn’t here.

Furthermore, while Dean Moriarty represents the essential life force, the mad one who burns like a Roman candle, much of his Benzedrine-and-booze-fueled behavior comes off as just reckless and irresponsible; onscreen, anyway, he seems more suitable to be envied rather than admired.

And lingering over the entire enterprise is the question of whether it will be clear to uninitiated and young audiences what the characters are rebelling against. Aside from Kerouac’s briefly seen mother and family, the “straight” world is scarcely glimpsed -- and nor should it be, as this was not an intention of the book. But the film provides little sense of how contrary and counter to the norm the characters’ thinking and behavior were in the context of the time.

After burying his father, the Kerouac figure Sal Paradise (Sam Riley) is taken to meet wildman Neal Cassady stand-in Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund), who answers the door stark naked, having been interrupted during sex with his saucy teenage wife Marylou (Kristen Stewart). Lots of voiceover, along with shots of Sal vacantly staring at his typewriter and toting around Swann’s Way, accompanies the aspiring writer’s eager embrace of life’s exotic but hardly inaccessible stimulations, beginning with New York jazz clubs and drugs and, after heading to Denver, some sexual sharing with the supercharged Dean and Marylou.

Athletically built, tousle-haired and up for anything, Dean attracts men and women, comes and goes as he pleases and abides by no rules; no sooner does he divorce Marylou than he marries the more stable Camille (Kirsten Dunst), with whom he starts having babies, even as he returns to Marylou for further travels and fun.

Although the story is Sal/Kerouac’s, the star part is Dean, and Hedlund has the allure for it; among the men here, he’s the one you always watch, and the actor effectively catches the character’s impulsive, thrill-seeking, risk-taking, responsibility-avoiding personality.

As embodied by a solid, if inherently reactive Riley, Sal is good-looking too, but in a more boyish, innocent way. Intimidated by Dean just as he idolizes him, he has the guts to follow far down an uncharted road where most others wouldn’t. He sometimes takes detours, among them an abridged romance with a Mexican girl (Alice Braga) while picking cotton with migrants in California, and continues to put in time trying to write at his mother’s modest home in Queens.

But it’s the group adventures that count the most, and Salles has captured some of them quite evocatively: A wild New Year’s Eve party where Dean and Marylou dance in a sexy frenzy; a calm and weird stay at the Louisiana home of the William Burroughs character, Old Bull Lee (Viggo Mortensen, very fine); another sexy scene in which Marylou simultaneously pleasures Dean and Sal (out of camera range) as they all ride naked in the front seat of their car; Dean’s escape from domesticity with Camille as he joins Sal at a club to see Slim Gaillard, and a wild sojourn south of the border for mind-blowing weed and Mexican whores.

Less effective are Dean’s quest for his long-lost father in Denver, the windy ramblings of Allen Ginsberg equivalent Carlo Marx (Tom Sturridge) and an out-of-left-field episode involving a fastidious gay man (an unbilled Steve Buscemi) keen to buy Dean’s services.

While the film’s dramatic impact is variable, visually and aurally it is a constant pleasure. Eric Gautier’s cinematography is endlessly resourceful, making great use of superb and diverse locations (including New York, Canada, New Mexico, California, Louisiana, Mexico and Argentina). The cars, beginning with the central Hudson, are terrific, as are the décor, clothes and wide range of music. The film was researched to the limit, and it shows.

Stewart, selected for Marylou five years ago on the basis of her striking debut in Into the Wild, is perfect in the role, takes off her clothes more than once and nearly always seems to be breaking a sweat, which kicks the sexiness quotient up high. Amy Adams is frumpy and into a mysterious zone of her own as Old Bull’s odd wife, while Elisabeth Moss is obliged to carp and complain as the severe fellow’s unsuitable house guest.
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Re: On the Road

Postby Sonic Youth » Wed May 23, 2012 8:27 am

Two star review:

Cannes 2012: On the Road – review
Handsome shots and touching sadness don't compensate for the tedious air of self-congratulation in Walter Salles's road movie
Peter Bradshaw
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 23 May 2012


Walter Salles has brought to Cannes a good-looking but directionless and self-adoring road movie, based on the 1957 novel by Jack Kerouac. It's comparable to Salles's 2004 film The Motorcycle Diaries about the early adventures of Che Guevara and his buddy Alberto Granado – but there the travellers were learning to think and care about people other than themselves. This really isn't the case with the heroes of On the Road, who strenuously insist on how passionate and life-affirming they are, with dozens of self-consciously staged parties, in which the characters heroically swig from bottles, smoke joints, have sex and become narcissistic, flatulent and boring in a way that isn't entirely intentional.

The journey across America is part of the literary education of budding writer Sal Paradise, played by Sam Riley, and everyone has a reverence for the written word; Salles's camera periodically lingers, solemnly, on the covers of books by Arthur Schopenhauer and Marcel Proust and one character even reads joylessly aloud from Swann's Way.

In the late 1940s, Sal's father has just died; he hangs out with the striving, gabbling Ginsbergian poet Carlo Marx (Tom Sturridge) in various hipster dives, but is himself blocked as a writer and wondering what to do with his life. Then everything is turned around by meeting Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund), a wild free spirit, a wanderer taking odd jobs and turning tricks: at their first meeting, Dean opens the door to him stark naked. He seems gloriously unfettered by the boring bonds of hearth and home; he is a hobo of the mind and spirit, just taking off when and where he pleases, drinking life to the very dregs. He is with his gorgeous 16-year-old bride Marylou, played by Kristen Stewart, but seems to have many other quasi-conjugal ties around the country that he is not too worried about. Fascinated and inspired by this freewheeling alpha-male, Sal himself hits the road, sometimes with Dean, sometimes without, scribbling notes for a book.

Sal has a sort of homoerotic bond with Dean, which is displaced into their mutual infatuation with Marylou, but there is never any sense that he genuinely cares for Marylou, or is interested in her. Other friends and acquaintances join them on the road, and we become aware that while the guys are heading for the hills, they have in almost every case left a woman behind, fuming. Camille (Kirsten Dunst) finally throws Dean out on his ear; Galatea (Elisabeth Moss) rages at her errant husband – and the women's anger, though shrill and futile, has a kind of real life that the bland, self-admiring male voyagers do not. Marylou herself is endlessly tolerant. Viggo Mortensen and Amy Adams have eccentric cameos as Old Bull Lee and Jane, a couple who give houseroom to the travellers.

On the Road does, ultimately, have a touching kind of sadness in showing how poor Dean is becoming just raw material for fiction, destined to be left behind as Sal becomes a New York big-shot. But this real sadness can't pierce or dissipate this movie's tiresome glow of self-congratulation.
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On the Road

Postby Sonic Youth » Wed May 23, 2012 7:57 am

On The Road
23 May, 2012 | By Lee Marshall
Screendaily


Dir: Walter Salles. France-Brazil. 2012. 137mins


After more than five decades of thwarted adaptations, Jack Kerouac’s iconic 1957 Beat generation novel has finally made it to the screen. But while it’s well cast, resplendently shot and buoyed up by a moody, pitch-perfect jazz soundtrack, On The Road fails to “burn, burn, burn like fabulous roman candles”, to quote one of the more celebrated passages from Kerouac’s book. Walter Salles’ film is designer Kerouac, a slick product that deploys all the tools of the big-budget, award-chasing indie film – some handheld camera, a little desaturated colour, hot young actors – to craft a product that feels oddly flat despite the romantic, creative, freewheeling lifestyle it enshrines. There are moments, to be fair, when it captures something of the bebop spirit of the age; but much of the time it feels more like a Beat generation brochure.

Still, the polite ripple of applause the film received after its Cannes press screening will translate into a more than polite ripple of box-office action for a commercially smart film that will attract both older audience nostalgic for the buzz Kerouac’s book gave them all those years ago and younger kids curious about the Beat mythology. For the latter demographic, the on-the-money casting of Garrett Hedlund (Tron: Legacy), Sam Riley (Control) and Kristen Stewart (The Twilight Saga) will also exercise a pull. Nominations, when they come, will likely be for adapted screenplay (if only for the courage of finally rising to challenge), cinematography and, possibly, best actor for Hedlund (who smoulders like a young Brad Pitt in a camera-hogging performance).

Part adaptation ,part biopic, the film dips into both Kerouac’s novel and his real life between 1947 and 1951, the years of his friendship with Neal Cassady, the main character and inspiration of the author’s heavily autobiographical novel. The real-life characters are given fictional monikers, exactly as in the book: Kerouac himself becomes Sal Paradise; Cassady is Dean Moriarty; Kerouac’s Beat poet friend Allen Ginsberg is Carlo Marx; and Cassady’s first wife LuAnne Henderson is Marylou.

It’s the shifting quadrangle of alliances formed by Dean (Hedlund), Sal (Riley), Marylou (Stewart) and, to a lesser extent, Carlo (Sturridge) that the script homes in on, as the foursome criss-cross America from New York to Denver (Dean and Marylou’s hometown) to California, and back. Along the way Dean divorces Marylou for the more conventional Camille (Dunst), the novel’s name for Carolyn, the mother of Cassady’s three children – but he keeps Marylou on as his lover. Also featuring, in a New Orleans sequence, is Old Bull Lee (Mortensen), aka the original junkie writer, William Burroughs, and Terry (Braga), a single mother Sal has a brief affair with while working in the California cotton fields.

With his background of petty crime, string of romantic conquests and self-taught literary yearnings, the effortlessly virile Dean is a magnetic figure for the more introverted Sal, who admires, it is suggested, his impulsiveness and freedom from social constraint. Carlo’s own admiration of Dean is complicated by his homosexuality and Dean’s occasional bisexuality (he sometimes plays the rentboy to make some extra money).

Uncomplicatedly sexy Marylou is perhaps the only one who sees Dean as he is: fun to be with, a great lover but entirely selfish. Sal’s gradual facing up to Dean’s inability to accept responsibility or remain loyal to friends and lovers is the backbone of the film’s otherwise freewheeling road-movie structure.

Given that Jose Rivera’s script draws on Kerouac’s life as well as the book that made him famous, plenty of facts are fudged perhaps the chief one being the suggestion that On The Road was the first proper literary product of the obsessive notebook scribbling we see Sal indulging in throughout. Whereas Kerouac actually published his debut novel, The Town And The City, during the period covered here. There’s no sign, either, of Kerouac’s wife of the time, Joan Haverty. But these truth tweaks are all of a piece with the film version’s indulgent embrace of Kerouac’s self-sustaining myth.

Even the tubes of Benzedrine that are hoovered up by the protagonists look pretty in a film that goes for atmosphere over emotion and the ticking off of cultural references (from Proust via Rimbaud to Charlie Parker) that it never quite knows what to do with. The sunset-kissed or snow-dusted rural landscapes of America (mostly shot on location in Canada) are ravishing, and the soundtrack, scored by Gustavo Santaolalla with jazz musicians Charlie Haden and Brian Blade, is a concise snapshot of the era. But in its relentless pursuit of visual and aural polish and in the way it tamely critiques Kerouac’s legend at the same time that it glorifies it, On The Road feels a little shallow.
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