Jack Kerouac

Kill Your Darlings

Perhaps the most misleading aspect of the new crop of Beat movies that have surfaced during the past few years is that they obscure the fact that there was once an older crop of Beat movies. If your only exposure is Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s Howl, Walter Salles’ On the Road, John Krokidas’ Kill Your Darlings, and Michael Polish’s Big Sur, you might assume that the Beats participated in an artistic movement reserved exclusively for the written word. Yet Allen Ginsberg was front-and-center of experimental film projects like 1959’s Pull My Daisy (narrated by Kerouac) and 1966’s Chappaqua, while William S. Burroughs spent most of his career after the 1970s in independent films (alongside producing spoken word albums). Even Jack Kerouac, the most novelistic of the best-known Beats, showed his media literacy by recording improvisatory experiments in audio technology before he published “On the Road.” The literary Beats not only inspired later independent filmmakers, musicians, and artists, but they participated in multimedia productions themselves, seeking to realize a revolutionary new aesthetic across a variety of platforms of expression, often concurrently with their most famous published work. There is nothing inherently wrong with focusing only on these authors’ best-known works in adapting them to screen, but the resulting films do reinforce a rather common image of the Beats as forever-young literary outsiders, when they were in fact heavily involved in the social and artistic movements their work cultivated and helped inspire throughout their lives. But this raises a question: Do […]

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Sundance: Big Sur

Hot on the heels of the trailer for Kill Your Darlings comes another film about the beat generation – but it’s no tale of fresh faces in a new movement, nor does it take place anywhere near ivy-covered halls. Michael Polish‘s Big Sur is the adaptation of the Jack Kerouac novel that chronicles his life long after the young and wreckless On the Road days have settled in the past. But that doesn’t mean that Kerouac (Jean-Marc Barr) has any less of an interesting life now that he’s older, wiser, more accomplished – he’s just restless  and looking for escape. So he heads out to Big Sur in search of both peace and company, and certainly finds it in friend Neal Cassady’s (Josh Lucas) mistress (Kate Bosworth). With a location like Big Sur, it’s hard for your trailer not to be a stunner. However, our own Allison Loring felt that the prettiness wasn’t enough to save it when she reviewed the film for Sundance earlier this year. Still, holding judgement based on the trailer alone, the film looks intriguing based on the premise that it’s based on a novel from the later part of the beat movement — meaning it’s not going to be as carefree or lively as something written in his younger years. We’re now observing a beatnik with responsibilities, is what I’m saying. Also, I’m just a sucker for when dialogue is written in the same fashion as an author’s writing style. Take a look at the […]

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Sundance: Big Sur

Jack Kerouac is best known for his novel “On The Road,” which helped inspire the Beat generation and brought the author fast fame, but his next novel, “Big Sur,” told the story of how success only made Kerouac feel more lost and trapped. Director Michael Polish attempts to bring the novel to life with Big Sur as we watch Kerouac (Jean-Marc Barr) travel to the beautiful area to secretly stay in his friend Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s (Anthony Edwards) cabin and try and find some peace.

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If you’ve ever spent any extended time in a coffee shop or a freshman dorm, chances are you’ve seen a good number of young people with open hearts and confused eyes dutifully thumbing through the pages of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.” It’s one of those books you just have to get into when you’re coming of age, like “The Catcher in the Rye,” or, if you’re a sociopath, Ayn Rand’s stuff. Given the book’s enduring popularity, it’s strange that it’s taken so long for Hollywood to make a big screen adaptation, but, nevertheless, the wait is over, and the first trailer for the film is here. How does it look? Well, it looks like director Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries) and his camera crew have shot a beautiful film. And seeing as the narration put over this trailer quotes one of the most famous passages from Kerouac’s novel, it looks like he’s made a film that’s very much On the Road. This seems to be a straight adaptation; the essence of the book put up on the screen, without any unexpected detours.

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Based on Jack Kerouac’s novel of the same name, On The Road begins in 1947 in New York City, where a young writer, Sal Paradise (Sam Riley), finds himself introduced to the larger-than-life Dean Moriarty (played with charm and conviction by Garrett Hedlund.) Thanks to Dean’s slightly “mad” outlook on life, Sal thinks that spending time with him may lead to some good stories — and hopefully fix his current writer’s block. But more than that, Dean reminds Sal of someone. As their relationship grows, Sal gets more and more embroiled in Dean’s life, and instead of simply observing and being around it Sal starts to become an integral part of it. When Dean decides to move back to Denver to win back his young wife Marylou (Kristen Stewart), Sal takes him up on his offer to join him. As a “young writer trying to take off,” Sal literally takes off, hitchhiking his way across the country and meeting even more interesting characters and jotting more and more notes in his tiny notebooks along the way. Once in Denver, Sal finds himself quickly falling into Dean’s life of sex, drugs, and jazz, and the line between reality and fantasy starts to blur.

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Jack Kerouac‘s “On the Road” is so thoroughly based on the beauty of language that it will be interesting to see what kind of movie it will make. It’s the kind of dream project that elicits nightmares because it’s incredibly popular, but it’s also that rare case where a book is fiercely personal no matter how many millions of people read it. Walter Salles took on the challenge, and his background in road movies certainly helps, but there are some x-factors here to be sure. Sam Riley sounds appropriately gruff and wandering in voice over in the new trailer, but the movie will also be a test of whether Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart can really act or if they can only chew gum and walk. Check it out for yourself:

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The upcoming movie Kill Your Darlings will look at the relationship between beat authors Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, and the man who introduced them, Lucien Carr. It was a relationship that reportedly began with murder, as soon after the three became friends Carr was implicated in the killing of another man named David Kammerer, and the famous authors found themselves caught in the middle of all the drama. Sounds like a saucy little story, especially with the “based on true events” factor that it has working for it. But perhaps even more exciting than the murder aspects of this story is the cast that it is now being assembled to bring it to life. The first casting announcement was that Daniel Radcliffe would be shrugging off his wizarding robe and branching out in another direction to portray Ginsberg. The idea of watching Radcliffe do something so different could have been enough to sell people on this movie alone, but some new casting details have surfaced that add to the anticipation. According to a report from Variety, not only has the Kerouac role been filled by Boardwalk Empire’s Jack Huston, and the Carr role filled by In Treatment’s Dane DeHaan, but Martha Marcy May Marlene’s breakout star Elizabeth Olsen has signed on as well. She’ll be playing Edie Parker, who was an art student and a girlfriend of Kerouac’s.

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Daniel Radcliffe

James Franco isn’t just known as the greatest Oscars host of all-time, he’s also an actor. An actor who up until now was the most recent man to portray legendary beat poet Allen Ginsberg on screen. Franco played Ginsberg in the movie Howl, which didn’t shy away from the perceived obscenity of Ginsberg’s works, the fact that there was a lot of drug use going on in the man’s life, or the fact that he was pretty openly homosexual. You have to be comfortable dealing with some pretty risqué stuff if you’re going to accurately portray Ginsberg on film, so it makes sense that an actor as concerned with being artsy and progressive as James Franco would take the poet on. But what’s a little more shocking is the newest actor who is going to be stepping into Ginsberg’s shoes. In the upcoming film Kill Your Darlings the poet is going to be played by none other than… Harry Potter?!

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Why Watch? Because one of us has a home. A lonely traveler sticks his thumb out against the cruel world trying to get somewhere. He fills up a canteen at a riverside. He looks on down the road. The trials and tribulations of the highway are made even more drastic and even more endearing when its an action figure attempting to hitch a ride. This stop motion short has a simple method to it that 1) shows how difficult it is to create stop motion outdoors and 2) delivers something magical that stems from seeing a tiny humanoid entity surviving in a giant world of fast-moving cars. What does it cost? Just 5 minutes of your time. Check out Chief Serenbe for yourself:

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Criterion Files

John Cassavetes’ Shadows (1959) is often cited as a watershed moment in American independent film, and Cassavetes himself rather conveniently historicized as our nation’s “first” independent filmmaker. Such historical designations are often used as a way to narrativize precedents to the 1980s and 1990s Sundance-emboldened independent film “movement” and draw historical equivalents to the practices of now and then. This tendency often positions Cassavetes’ undoubtedly important contributions in a way that simplistically juxtaposes his artistic efforts with that of, say, anybody from Jim Jarmusch to Quentin Taranatino, ignoring the essential differences in historical context and means of aesthetic expression between them while also conveniently evading the many other American “independent” filmmakers that came before Cassavates himself. While Cassavetes is undoubtedly a one-of-a-kind filmmaker (excluding the many he has influenced), perhaps the biggest problem with this conventionally reductive veneration of Cassavetes is the notion that he acted alone, that he was an anomaly in an otherwise dominant system. John Cassavetes is undoubtedly one of America’s most important filmmakers, but seeing him as such an incongruity prevents us from understanding exactly why he was so important.

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The long-gestating project might be putting its rubber to the asphalt soon. Does this mean Francis Ford Coppola is going to stop making wine?

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It was the best of times and the drug-induced times in American modern history. Stick out your thumb and dig deep into the madness.

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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+


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