Saturday, 20 July 2013

On the Road

On the Road (2012) directed by Walter Salles from a novel written by Jack Kerouac in April 1951 offers an account of Jack's travels across America and Mexico with his friend Neal Cassady. The movie is reminiscent of Che's Motorcycle Diaries and other American road films.

The spell-binding screen play by Jose Rivera makes this movie a cut above the rest. Billed as an American cult classic of the Beat generation and the Beat poets the movie suggests that in creativity is redemption. Sal, the writer, is also the observer. He observes Dean his pal go through the turns and tumbles of life. Interestingly, Sal does not experience these moments himself to be able to write about them. He is the vicarious spectator -- if you can leave out the torrid scene with Mary Lou towards the end of the movie. But largely he is detached. Even to the point of a fault when he stares at the beat-up Dean icily and dismisses him from his life. Sal is parasitic on Dean's experiences so he can write about them. He is devoured by this fix and like Henry Miller did with Marilyn Monroe sacrifices love for a manuscript.

Carlo, who hangs out with Dean, Sal and Mary is the poet from the first image of him. Modeled on Ginsburg he speaks in a prophetic voice like a chant and is the spitting audio file of Jim Morrison of the Doors. The bespectacled Carlo leaves for Africa to bed negro males once he discovers he is gay. He develops a love-interest for Dean which has him squabbling over him with Mary who is Dean's unofficial lover. In the final moments of the movie Sal opens a packet from the post and discovers Carlo's published book. Looks like the umpteen dips into Proust's Swann's Way which they all read on their travels have pushed up a poet! Desire Under the Elms by O'Neill also figures, and Joyce, and Seize the Day by Bellow.

Dean's tale is a sad one. Though his life is strewn with lovers he has felt very little love. Camille, his wife, who bears his children puts him out of the house for his irresponsible ways.She knows about Mary.

The music is one of the most endearing aspects of the film (among several others). From the opening song 'Left New York in 1947' sung as a reprieve at the end, to the various styles of black music, hip hop and the music of Mexico, this movie can simple be listened to rather than viewed.

Sal's voice overs in the film give it a documentary-like quality -- a sense of reportage. As the breathtaking postcard scenery emerges on their travels on the road Sal's offers the necessary comment and poetry, ' The purity of the road' and the bathetic 'Zoom went the car / we were off on the road.'

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