Sunday, October 21, 2012

On the Road - directed by Walter Salles

Salles comes with a decent pedigree having directed The Motorcycle Diaries - and this film has the same epic scenery thanks to cinematographer Eric Gautier, who worked on both. The score is also impressive, all jazz and blues with Son House, Slim Gaillard and Ella Fitzgerald to name but a few. Of course the essence of On the Road is unfilmable. It's an unstructured stream of consciousness that only occasionally yields glimpses of coherence. It's largely unreadable. Everybody had a copy in the Sixties but not many did more than dip into it. The idea of the road and the freedom it entailed, especially sexual freedom, was the attraction. The sad fates of both Kerouac (died an alcoholic back living with his mother) and Cassady (dying by a railway track after yet another party) helped puncture that myth. The book was an extended love letter from Kerouac to Cassady and the film does capture this aspect of it. It's also quite dark in places and Salles depicts much of the revelry as forced and desperate. However it ends in bathos with the tramp-like Cassady encountering the newly successful Kerouac on a New York street. This bears no relation to how things ended between them. They grew apart because Cassady was disgusted with the drink-sodden Kerouac and Kerouac in turn reckoned that Cassady had been ruined by LSD. Also, the two lead actors ere far too collegiate and glamorous looking. Cassady and Kerouac were more blue-collar than Ivy League as the photo above shows. All in all though it's mildly diverting.