On the Road: Words beat pictures despite Salles’ best intentions

Well, you wait over 50 years for an On the Road movie to arrive and then two come along in fairly quick time. Within recent weeks, director Walter Salles’ original and longer version of the feature – coming in at around 140 minutes and seen in that format at Cannes in the spring – has been trimmed by close to 20 minutes and it is the latter, tighter cut that has pulled up at the network of independent movie houses in the UK in the last fortnight or so. Its autumn press reception in Britain has been lukewarm to say the least – a handful of positive notices amid the general feeling that this is not the piece we’d been hoping for, maybe half-expecting, but not ultimately the one we’d anticipated.

I went in determined to ignore the worst of the reviews and take glimmers of hope from the few, more upbeat reactions. I had consumed probably a dozen media responses to the production, yet believed that I could, despite those steers this way and that, still make my own decision on this. After all, the trailer had looked appealing, full of vigour, so I did not enter Manchester’s Cornerhouse complex without a certain optimism. But I had, I must confess, already been disappointed by decisions to excise the initial release: for me, I thought, more would probably mean more and less would leave me hungry. But I’ll return to that in due course.

On the Road on the big screen has a number of things to recommend it. The visions that Salles concocts, with the aid of his acclaimed cinematographer Eric Gautier, are often breath-taking: the shots of landscape – the road snaking ahead, the car shooting along the ribbon of highway from left to right, right to left, through new country, the immensity of a Mexican vista as a Manhattan of cacti spikes is dwarfed by the misty mountains beyond – are frequently splendid. Bridges caught in fog, the sunset-touched shore of New York City, the spark of a cigarette mounted against the neon horizon at night…these eye-catching shots are in many ways the stars of the film.

But what about the true stars of the picture, the actors who have attempted to bring to life a gallery of familiar characters, dramatis personae who have already been doubly cast in so many of our minds: as the genuine flesh and blood individuals – Kerouac, Cassady, Ginsberg and so on – and the fictional ciphers who inhabit the page, Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty, particularly.

And this is where my faith in the new version starts to waver. Sam Riley’s Paradise may have tried hard to frame Sal’s understated intensity, his introspective reflection, his deep and brooding soul, but he feels more like a ghost to me: a shadowy, somewhat insipid presence. Good you may think: Paradise is, after all, the observer, the recorder of the chaotic events unfolding around him, rather than the architect. But then you need the white flame of Moriarty to get this feast cooking and I’m afraid I have to say that Garrett Hedlund’s stab at incarnating this iconic Beat emblem is game but simply short of the mercurial spirit I required. He has a handsome cool but is lacking the alchemic fire that Kerouac toils to describe in the book – and does so to huge effect. Meanwhile, Tom Sturridge’s Carlo Marx/Ginsberg is also a pale imitation of the intellectual dynamo I perceive: his take is neurotic, near autistic, submissive. The brain-power, the potency of the nascent poet, is reduced here to mumbling sycophant.

Other supporting characters in the drama are more convincing though. Kristen Stewart’s Marylou is dark-eyed and aloof but brings a crackling tension to the scenes she inhabits. She is sexy and confident and her performance as manipulative temptress transcends the brief moments when she actually beds Moriarty or Paradise, or both together. Viggo Mortenson’s Old Bull Lee – for which we, of course, read William Burroughs – is excellent, too, capturing the author’s mannerisms and drawl quite brilliantly. Kirsten’s Dunst’s Camille, Carolyn Cassady’s character, illuminates a couple of fizzing exchanges along the way and Elisabeth Moss’s feisty cameo as Ed Dunkel’s discarded wife also brings something memorable to the table.

What else catches the eye or under-delivers? I have to say that as a period piece, On the Road does not, in some ways at least, always feel like a 1940s re-creation. The storefronts, the automobiles, the domestic settings, the difficult expensive details, are plausibly of their time. But the main protagonists don’t necessarily suggest they have stepped from that immediate post-war era. The hair-cuts are indistinctly based on indie kid styles from a later, unspecified moment. I can’t believe that Moriarty’s Western neck would have let the hair hang there so long, or that Paradise’s floppy fringe or Marx’s untamed mane are really true representations of their day. Other simple matters don’t add up either: the white T-shirt Dean wears has that tight, short, slim cut that Gap would be flogging us here and now, not the stretched and shapeless billow, maybe oil-dotted or ketchup stained, that Moriarty’s functional vest would surely have displayed.

On the Road the book is, of course, episodic, picaresque and fragmented. Salles’ film tries to be all those things. But while the story that Kerouac conceived, the autobiographical material that he moulded into one of the century’s great tales of restless wandering, was brought to vivid life through prose that said things, that described relationships, that painted horizons, that expressed the rushing wind of the timeless journey, in utterly fresh ways, crafted words are a most difficult currency to translate into sketched out storyboards and final celluloid frames.

I really did feel that it was the prose that had held me all those years ago, when I first read this writer and speedily consumed most of his oeuvre. Someone once said that they preferred radio to television because the pictures were better, the imagination produced more convincing impressions than the literal images on the box that had been served up whole to us. The same I feel applies to this project: the sentences and paragraphs that had me breathlessly running, at least in in my mind’s eye, down Denver streets, up San Francisco hills or the back alleys of Greenwich Village, could not quite be replicated in this bigger, brasher medium. I simply could not make a visceral connection. The all-talking, all-moving marathon of the motion picture left me longing for stillness, for intimacy, for that original discovery when my eyes met Kerouac’s adjectives and images bloomed in my younger cortex.

True to this thought, one of the very best moments in the movie for me is linked more closely to text than to visuals. While Kerouac’s phrases and descriptions are occasionally present in the screenplay – from the Scroll more than the book interestingly – they never quite take off: they have a somewhat cliched quality in this context, and when Paradise sits down at the end of film to actually write On the Road on teletype paper, there is a strong and surprising sense of banality: the device feels hackneyed and short of inspiration, a lazy way to wrap the ramble up.

However, when, a little earlier, Paradise’s eyes run over the new poems that Marx has written and presented in a pamphlet called Denver Doldrums, the lines – are they from On the Road? are they a Ginsberg pastiche? – are quite wonderful. They seem (just as ‘Howl’ did) to condense impression and emotion into a series of evocative word-snaps – ‘the tin cans of Cincinnati’ – and it is that intensity, that concentration, that great poetry has the ability to convey, something that this particular movie interpretation singularly lacks.

The film is free-form, free-wheeling and far-flung and while the barely-resolved arcs of the various chapters will be familiar to Kerouac readers, the average movie-goer, less acquainted with the classic Beat odyssey, will find the threads interminably lacking in shape and substance, bereft of purpose and thin on resolution. For me, as a Kerouac fan and follower, I had a certain admiration for its existential looseness: the impressionist splashes of light and shade, mood and meaning, that Salles throws on the canvas do suggest the anarchic irresponsibility of Sal and Dean’s hedonistic mission. But this technique will not, I fear, spark light-bulbs in the heads of the mainstream audience-member.

On the plus side, various party scenes throb with youthful life and the live jazz interlude, with saxophone at its beating heart, has an authentic energy, and the bordello scene, south of the border, has a hypnotic, proto-psychedelic allure. Less compelling, more stilted even, is Coati Mundi’s on-screen rendition of a Slim Gaillard tune. His version on the soundtrack recording is admirable but the movie take, as the singer exhibits a risible toupee, feels more like an excerpt from a Marx Brothers cabaret than a homage to a significant R&B innovator.

To summarise, On the Road is an unmissable experience for the Kerouac aficionado. You have to see what a major film-maker has attempted with this remarkable work of fiction; it is going to be fascinating for that reason alone. But this movie’s flaws are manifest and its treats strictly rationed; a tour de force it is not. Frankly, the production’s tangible rewards are few and far between and, after two hours, when the end-titles roll accompanied by a re-imagining of Cassady/Hedlund walking the railroad tracks to his early death in 1968, I have to say that I had seen enough. The excised section, I’d been sorry to hear was now on the cutting-room floor, perhaps to be restored at some later stage in a director’s cut DVD, was not, ultimately, missed by me at all.

Tagged , , ,

Sur la Route: At last, Cannes premiere for Kerouac classic

The much-discussed movie interpretation of Jack Kerouac’s most celebrated novel On the Road finally, but finally, secures its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival today, with the Walter Salles-directed production unwrapped in the full glare of the globe’s most talked about cinematic jamboree.

How though will the world respond to this re-imagined celluloid version, decades on the drawing board and now ready, after too many false starts, for critical consumption?

There are certainly some Americans who feel that this film should have received a US unveiling – Kerouac, after all, the all-American traveller who turned his treks across the States in the late 1940s into the fictionalised adventures that launched a million such road trips for those who read it.

Yet Kerouac has strong affinities with France – his 1966 volume Satori in Paris was, in part, a kind of Who Do You Think You Are? odyssey, as the writer attempted to trace the Breton roots of his name. And, of course, Kerouac grew up in New England speaking French.

Further, France has always had a particular affection for the existential antics of the Beat writers – a living, transatlantic incarnation of the philosophical ideas that Sartre and Camus had explored in the years just before Kerouac thumbed his rides on Route 66 and, by the end of the 1950s, his fellow travellers – Ginsberg, Burroughs and Corso – were living in the French capital in what became dubbed the Beat Hotel.

The new Kerouac movie, produced by Roman Coppola, will eventually earn its US debut in the autumn. Before then, on August 16th, Somerset House in London will present the UK premiere of the picture. Rumours have it that the tickets for this auspicious screening sold out in 5 minutes. The long summer of On the Road has clearly commenced.

Tagged , ,

Review: Jonah Raskin – Rock’n’Roll Women: Portraits of a Generation

Ry Cooder in Oklahoma

dust bowl blues again, Karen

turning back pages of Kerouac and

kissing along Snake River,

Rock’n’Roll woman.

                  – from ‘Karen & Ry Cooder’

The moment I encountered Jonah Raskin’s new poetry collection it took me back to Stephen Stills’ deliciously evocative ‘Rock & Roll Woman’, a song that graced the second Buffalo Springfield album in 1967. And Raskin, that most versatile of cultural historians whose American Scream is a key book on the myth of Allen Ginsberg and the rise of ‘Howl’, provides plenty more twinges to the musical memory in this slim but sharp volume.

Like me, this poet is a sucker for the ballsy beat of R&B or the potent pulse of raw rock and still eager, too, to imbibe the freewheeling spirit of the Beat writers, a clan he aspires to emulate – and admits as much – in his stand-up verse and stripped down stanzas.

If he’s on stage reading his stuff, he is often joined, a la Kerouac, by musical accompaniment; here, in his latest opus, he takes on the tropes of rock history and interweaves that thrillingly volatile narrative with the adventures of a gallery of women (friends? lovers? fictions? fantasies?) who have played out their own sparky lives with the radio on, the turntable spinning or the jagged edge of a Stratocaster sending its shockwaves across the shimmering sea of a live audience.

Are these fragments of the Raskin biography? Quite possibly. Yet it matters not that much, for the female gang who inhabit this world – one that stretches from Elvis’ curled quiff to Johnny Rotten’s rusting safety pin – are essentially autonomous, stand-alone types who live maverick existences to a highly-charged soundtrack and, perhaps in rock itself, see a means to escape the stultifying air of conformity.

The Beats didn’t let women carve out independent lives – they kept lovers, wives and muses suspended in a submissive domesticity. The women of whom Raskin writes, later daughters of the vinyl countdown, have broken out of that triangular trap of Kinder, Küche, Kirche and, amid moveable feasts of the heart, absorb the sounds of the Everlys and the Beatles, Janis Joplin and Tina Turner, Dylan, the Dead and the Floyd.

Perhaps though, this cycle of poems is less about girls digging the latest discs and more about singles and LPs and concerts providing the aspic of nostalgia for Raskin and, indeed, so very many of us. We probably recall the 45 as much as the kiss, the album as much as the sleepover, the gig as much as the furious row, the record sleeve as much as the eventual break-up.

Rock’n’Roll Women comprises a series of snapshots that set relationships against the pleasing perspective of the jukebox, even if all was not sweetness and light – even back then. The love affairs may have tarnished in time but the Beach Boys and Jimmy Cliff, Carole King and Otis Redding will eternally suggest the possibility of youthful optimism and Raskin distils something of that appealing spark in these brief cameos.

Note: Jonah Raskin’s Rock’n’Roll Women: Portraits of a Generation is published by McCaa Books of Santa Rosa, California

Tagged ,

Trail: Harry Potter and the Beat Generation of Death

Daniel Radcliffe, the titular star of one of the most profitable movie franchises in Harry Potter, has certainly been making a few determined moves to disentangle himself permanently from the tentacles of Voldemort now that the long-running wizard and potions saga has reached its cinematic conclusion.

After making some well-received stage appearances in 2007 in Peter Schaffer’s powerful, horse-blinding drama Equus, in both London and New York, including challenging nude scenes to boot, even before J.K. Rowling’s fantasy fest had ended its film cycle, Radcliffe has also featured in the recent screen chiller, The Woman in Black, to more luke-warm notices.

But it is his next project that will perhaps see the young Briton tested most – playing a gay American in a true-life murder mystery. No, it’s not CSI: Hogwarts with a gender twist, but an adaptation of the events outlined in the Jack Kerouac/William Burroughs collaboration And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, a rare, two-scribe novel penned in the mid-1940s but one that did not see the general light of day until 2008.

For most Beat aficionados, however, the action in the story centres on those real-life events of 1944 when David Kammerer was stabbed and killed by Lucien Carr, in a bid, we have always been led to believe, to fend off the victim’s homosexual advances to the younger man. The fact that Kerouac would then become embroiled in the events that followed – he hid the murder weapon and was arrested as an accessory – has become a key part in the early Beat chronology.

In the movie, entitled Kill Your Darlings, Radcliffe dons the spectacles once more to portray Allen Ginsberg. Carr, who would serve two years in jail for what the press of the day dubbed ‘an honour slaying’, is played by Dane DeHaan, Kammerer is Michael C. Hall, Burroughs comes to life in the hands of Ben Foster, while Kerouac is reincarnated by Jack Huston. The film, currently in production on the Manhattan streets and directed by John Krokidas, is slated for a 2013 release.

Tagged , ,

Review: Heath Common & The Thin Man – Bohemia

Poetry and pop? Beat and rock’n’roll? Over the last half-century, several generations of rockers and rappers, folkies and freaks, melodists and mavericks, balladeers and beat-boxers, have tried to distil the essence of the art of Kerouac and Ginsberg, Burroughs and Ferlinghetti, and embroider it, re-shape it, re-cast it, with the riffs and licks of popular music.

In fact, few of the true giants – from Dylan to Lennon, Waits to Strummer, Patti Smith to Kurt Cobain, Stipe to Bono – have been immune to the notion that those revolutionary Fifties wordsmiths had something quixotic, something energising, to add to rock music at its more radical edges.

Whether it has been Beat’s literary style – its rolling, insistent momentum or the jolt of its fragmented verse – or merely its clarion call to freedom and the open highway, the pulse of the prose, the spark of its language, has remained an ongoing inspiration to younger hordes wielding electric guitars and rebellious vim.

That enduring, picaresque spirit is a frequent presence on Bohemia, a new album by a band of salty survivors from England’s north who take pieces of that potent Beat narrative, insert iconic figures from the popular cultural landscape, spout urban legends and churn in ancient myths, and weave them all with craft and charm in a ten-track debut odyssey.

Heath Common and The Thin Man are the principal wizards behind this eccentric yet alluring project, joined by a gang of seasoned and adept troubadours who add their atmospheric flavours to a string of imaginative set-pieces: tales of the weird West and timeless Bible fables, incidents from downtown New York City and even inner city Manchester, all brought to impressionistic life by some eclectic, rootsy, bluesy, folksy tunescapes.

The soundtrack has hints of Cooder’s Buena Vista adventure, taints of another Ry work-out in Wenders’ Paris Texas, yet also the twinkle and tinkle of Tales from Europe and the dark melancholy of Yiddish klezmer with all the barbed wire embers that evokes. This is spoken word with a worldly-wise, even world-weary, eye, but its sage-like tones hint enticingly at the long, deep drift of an alternative history.

As for the Beat influence on the collection, Neal Cassady, the frenetic hero of On the Road, makes a cameo appearance in ‘A New Bohemian’, the words of poet Gary Snyder form a portion of ‘Why Truck Drivers Rise Earlier than the Students of Zen’, legendary street musician Moondog crops up in ‘The Angel of New York’, a Beat-linked comedian is at the heart of ‘I Don’t Want to Be Lenny Bruce Anymore’ and there are yet more subterranean nuggets to unpick in the folds of the text.

But if you’re looking for some rock gods in the pages of this Pynchon-esque fantasia, look no further than Lennon in the nostalgic, even valedictory, ‘Candlestick Park’ or Keith Richards in ‘Performance (The Toronto Bust in Waltz Time)’, who, to add another layer to this saga, was actually heading, as star guest, to the Nova Convention, a major Manhattan tribute to William Burroughs, when his notorious drug arrest occurred.

In short, Bohemia is an ambitious compendium of boho snapshots riddled with reference to the literary and the musical, offbeat monologues to be recited around campfires of the mind, dreams to be decoded by the light of a mandolin moon, fairy stories for a new millennium, twisted tales engagingly unwound to the twang and spittle of a Soho saloon.

Heath Common & The Thin Man’s Bohemia is released on Platform 54, Summer 2012. Visit: http://www.heathcommonandthethinman.com


Preview: Beating an international drum

The heart of the Beat Generation is generally linked to the US and most often to those great cities of cultural innovation, New York and San Francisco. But this literary and artistic movement left its mark in many other places, too, and a new volume promises to share a global take on the phenomenon. The Transnational Beat Generation, edited by Nancy M. Grace and Jennie Skerl, will be published this month by Palgrave Macmillan. Here’s a comprehensive trail of its contents:

The Transnational Beat Generation

‘Introduction to Transnational Beat: Global Poetics in a Postmodern World’
Nancy M. Grace, The College of Wooster, and Jennie Skerl, West Chester University

Part I – Transnational Flows

‘William S. Burroughs and U.S. Empire’
Allen Hibbard, Middle Tennessee State University

‘Jack Kerouac and the Nomadic Cartographies of Exile’
Hassan Melehy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

‘Beat Transnationalism under Gender: Brenda Frazer’s Troia: Mexican Memoirs
Ronna C. Johnson, Tufts University

‘The Beat Manifesto:  Avant-Garde Poetics and the Worlded Circuits of African-American Beat Surrealism’
Jimmy Fazzino, University of California Santa Cruz

‘The Beat Fairy Tale and Transnational Spectacle Culture:  Diane di Prima and William S. Burroughs’
Nancy M. Grace, The College of Wooster

‘Two Takes on Japan:  The Japan and India Journals by Joanne Kyger and Philip Whalen’s Scenes of Life at the Capital
Jane Falk, University of Akron

‘“If the Writers of the World Get Together”: Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Literary Solidarity in Sandinista Nicaragua’
Michele Hardesty, Hampshire College

Part II – Reflections on the Transnational Beat:  Interview with Anne Waldman

Part III – Global Circulation

‘“they . . . took their time over the coming”:  The Postwar British/Beat 1957-1965’
R. J. Ellis, University of Birmingham

‘Beating Them to It?  The Vienna Group and the Beat Generation’
Jaap van der Bent, Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands

‘Prague Connection’
Josef Rauvolf, Prague, Czech Republic

Cain’s Book and the Mark of Exile: Alexander Trocchi as Transnational Beat’
Fiona Paton, State University of New York at New Paltz

‘Greece and the Beat Generation:  the Case of Lefteris Poulios’
Christopher Gair, University of Glasgow, and Konstantina Georganta, University of Edinburgh

‘Japan Beat:  Nanao Sakaki’
A. Robert Lee, Nihon University


Review: New novel’s Scroll goal

Larry Closs’ novel Beatitude, which came out in late 2011, is a sharp, smart novel with a human voice and some neat interweavings of memory and the present. Set in the recent past in a largely gay milieu in the media world of Manhattan, it avoids the usual posing or pretentiousness of fiction located in that hip, midtown mode. Rather, it is a story whose narrator has warmth and it is driven by a dialogue that is convincing and engaging. But the book is more than just a tale of quotidian romance in the upper storeys of a bejewelled urban isle – it also makes regular reference to the Beat Generation writers which drew me in still further.

It opens as Harry, the storyteller, and his friend Jay go searching on a grail-like mission to view Jack Kerouac’s legendary Original Scroll for his most famous novel On the Road and the book proper then commences with an almost direct reference to the opening lines of Kerouac’s own signature text. Yet Beatitude, which takes its title from Kerouac’s extension of the word Beat to embrace notions of the saintly and also incorporates some unpublished fragments of poetry by that other Beat giant Allen Ginsberg in its pages, is more than a mere derivative homage. It is an authentic contemporary account, enlightened by appealing Beat details, but its main strength is in its ability to convey plausible conversations between its believable dramatis personae.

Beatitude is published by Rebel Satori Press, Hulls Cove, ME

Tagged ,

Muse news: Cassady birthday honour

My good friend Mark Bliesener, rock’n’roll manager and long-time Beat follower, shares news from the Mile High City, Denver in Colorado, where the annual celebration of Neal Cassady’s birthday takes place next month. Denver’s East High School, which Cassady attended in the 1940s, will present an honorary diploma to members of the Cassady family at a school assembly on February 3rd. In granting the diploma, East cites Cassady’s major impact on American literature as an author and as the muse of Jack Kerouac, Hunter S. Thompson, Allen Ginsberg, Ken Kesey and Tom Wolfe.

The Third Annual  Cassady Birthday Bash will  take place on the same day from 8-10 pm at the city’s Mercury Café located at 2199 California.The “Bash” is free and features musical performers and special guest readers including Neal’s daughters Jami and Cathy Cassady, noted musician and composer David Amram, guitarist Janet Feder, director of Lowell Massachusetts Celebrates Kerouac the Rev. Steve Edington, and core faculty member of the Jack Kerouac School at Naropa University Junior Burke. The event will be hosted, in person, by noted Denver Beat historian Mark Bliesener himself.

Neal Cassady, the model for Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, would have been 86 years old on February 8th. His hyper-energetic life came to a premature conclusion in 1968, one year before Kerouac’s own death.


New Girl: Hipster klutz or clueless clunk?

I was sorry to hear that Zooey Deschanel and Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard had called an end to their two year marriage. There’s always something refreshingly endearing about a maverick indie rocker – whose interest in Jack Kerouac and his work is well-known – getting the photogenic gal. But clearly Zooey, also half of pop duo She & Him with songwriter M. Ward, had moved on and there were, perhaps, other matters on her mind – from Hollywood movie hits to her latest project, the much-discussed TV comedy New Girl.

The Guardian, in previews, conceded that New Girl was the best of a fairly dismal bunch of autumn-launched, US small-screen sitcoms describing Deschanel’s role, in this girl-meets-boys-in-shared-apartment-frolic, as ‘a hipster klutz’, a teasingly attractive sort of trail. But were there enough laughs to be had in this rompish half hour which debuted on Channel 4 on Friday evening? Was the piece more clueless and clunky that we’d been led to believe? So far, not convinced of its charms, I’m afraid.

Maybe one episode isn’t quite enough to judge a season, but loosely-tossed predictions that this piece may have the staying power of a Cheers or a Friends seem highly optimistic at this stage. I remember, back in 2007, The Class being touted as the series to finally supersede the long shadow of the Ross and Rachel show and it seemed quite sharp only to die a death after one solitary year. Keeping audiences chuckling and the advertisers happy is plainly a tricky test for those commissioning execs.

More of a stayer is the chic-to-be-geek Big Bang Theory which has a female lead with more emotional intelligence than all her lab lad rivals, doctorates and all, combined. Penny’s tussles with the IQ-laden boys across the hall are already deemed worthy of another three seasons at least – quite a commitment in the amnesia-liable land of American television. Whether New Girl will have anything like that longevity or will just be any old rubbish within a few months, we’ll have to see.

Tagged ,

Not so much On the Road as in a lay-by

Few movie projects have been awaited for so long by so many as the film version of Jack Kerouac’s 1957 novel On the Road. More than 50 years ago, Kerouac, already becoming a slightly pickled parody of the sharp-witted roamer of the late 1940s, sent a letter to the hipster-in-chief Marlon Brando to encourage him to turn his signature novel into solid gold celluloid. Kerouac would take the role of Sal Paradise, the narrator of the novel, while Brando would assume the part of Dean Moriarty, the fictional re-modelling of the writer’s best travelling pal Neal Cassady. Brando, who lived in no one’s cultish shadow once James Dean had perished prematurely in a fast-moving Porsche Spyder in 1955, had, by then, made his mark in The Wild One and On the Waterfront, and perhaps thought Kerouac’s proposal was just a little too home-spun for the charismatic king of left-field Hollywood to consider. Or maybe his agent never showed him the letter.

In 2005, Kerouac’s actual letter to Brando made over $30,000 at a Christie’s auction, about the most concrete action there’s been on this particular topic since. Yet that hasn’t been for want of trying. The great Francis Ford Coppola has owned the rights to On the Road for decades and has tried several times to make the film a reality. One casting, some while ago, seemed to have clinched Brad Pitt as Paradise, Johnny Depp as Moriarty and Jim Carrey in a William Burroughs cameo. Course, it never happened.

Since then, Coppola has re-grouped and the 2012 version of the story is done and dusted and in the can, acclaimed Brazilian movie-maker Walter Salles handling directorial duties. With British actor Sam Riley as Sal, Garrett Hedlund as Dean, Kristen Stewart as Marylou and Kirsten Dunst as Camille, it seems that the Cannes Film Festival in the spring will give the picaresque flick its prestigious first European airing. ‘Cept there are now rumours that some Kerouac family legal action may hold up this baby once more. The courts are never far from the Kerouac estate and its legacy, ever since his early death in 1969, and there are rumbling hints another legal suit has been pitched. Let’s hope this is not another delay in the interminable and unresolved odyssey that is On the Road: The Movie. ‘Tis better thing to travel hopefully than to arrive, perhaps.

Tagged ,