Tag Archives: Big Sur

What Hollywood Gets Wrong About Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation and a trailer from the movie “On The Road”

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untitled (42)What Hollywood Gets Wrong About Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation

A new crop of films portrays their lifestyle as rebellious, adolescent fun. But what made the Beats so influential in the first place was that they were radical, free-thinking adults.
Jordan Larson
Oct 16 2013, 1:54 PM ET
Sony Pictures

John Clellon Holmes, author of the seminal Beat Generation novel Go, wrote in 1952 that for the free-spirited rising stars of American literature known as the Beats, “how to live seems to them much more crucial than why.” In those years, young people in the U.S. were in the process of inheriting both economic prosperity and stifling societal mores from their parents. So for many, the Beat Generation of writers—with their stupendous refusal of social and cultural norms and their way of life governed by the pursuit of pleasure, belief, and truth—was a godsend.

Today’s young people experience problems of a bit of a different ilk. Feeling free and adventurous won’t avail you of your student loan debt, poems penned in the days between drug-fueled nights probably won’t make it into your favorite lit mag—and, if they did, you’d probably be asked to write for free anyway, you know, “for the exposure.” But this hasn’t stopped a veritable resurgence over the last few years of Beat obsession, beginning with the film Howl (2010), and continuing with On the Road (2012) and two new films, Kill Your Darlings, in theaters today, and Big Sur, opening November 1. Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg—the authors of On the Road and Howl, respectively—have been the focus of two films each.

Given what the Beats meant to young people of the 1950s, perhaps it isn’t so surprising that their culture has been revived for millennial consumption. What teenager or 20-something doesn’t long to drop everything and take a road trip to wherever, with friends and booze and drugs and sex? And in an age when many young people are discovering that young adulthood isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, we could use some fun, right? But the current Beat revival arguably goes too far with its re-imagination of the Beat writers’ livelihoods as simple adolescent goofing around—its most prominent writers were, after all, well into their grown-up years when they wrote many of their most notable writings. This crop of films diminishes what was so radical about the Beat Generation in the first place: their iconoclastic approach to life, which extended far beyond their 20s and into adulthood proper.

Conspicuously absent from the latest revival is the third heavyweight of the movement, William S. Burroughs, whose Naked Lunch was adapted into a disturbing and gritty film by David Cronenberg in 1991. The omission perhaps isn’t so surprising: Burroughs credited his awakening as a writer to a 1951 incident in Mexico when he accidentally killed his wife while playing “William Tell,” a bar trick Burroughs invented that involves shooting a glass off someone’s head, so his legacy would likely be a bit harder to spin as one of harmless and youthful adventure.

In casting the authors as eternally and fundamentally adolescent, the recent revival tones down their behavior—both revolutionary and repulsive—as a sort of passing teenage phase.

The exclusion of Burroughs from the Beat revival isn’t the only way the movement has been crafted for optimal consumption, though: Howl and Kill Your Darlings focus on Allen Ginsberg at his most youthful and promising. Kill Your Darlings, in which a baby-faced Daniel Radcliffe plays Ginsberg, tells a little-known tale of murder in the Beats’ group of friends at Columbia University, which ends up bringing the group together. The appeal of the story seems to be that it’s about a set of famous people who may have been involved in a possible murder during their youths, the occurrence of which may or may not explain their genius, or art, or something. In Howl, however, Ginsberg’s collection of poems are the subject of an obscenity trial, and though you’d never guess from James Franco’s youthful appearance as Ginsberg in the film, the author was actually 30 years old when Howl was published.

On the Road, published when Kerouac was 35, seems most susceptible to being reimagined as a series of youthful whims. A recollection of Kerouac’s mid-20s, which he spent traveling with Neal Cassady (known as Dean Moriarty in the book); Neal’s wife, Luanne Henderson; and other Beat figures, On the Road is a paean to recklessness and discovery. Significantly, the film replaces the famous opening line of the book, “I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up,” with “I first met Dean not long after my father died,” likely because it interferes with the viewer’s image of carefree and unbridled youth. Scrubbed from the film is any mention of Sal’s age at the time (25) or his stint in the military before attending Columbia. However, the film doesn’t balk at Luanne’s age: characters make numerous references to “Dean’s 16-year-old bride,” known in the book as Marylou.

Sal Paradise, Kerouac’s character in the book, describes Marylou as being “awfully dumb and capable of doing horrible things.” In the morning after Sal’s first all-night meeting with the couple, Dean “decided the thing to do was to have Marylou make breakfast and sweep the floor.” Shortly after, Dean and Marylou have a fight, and Marylou kicks Dean out of their shared apartment. According to Sal, “Dean said she’d apparently whored a few dollars together and gone back to Denver—‘the whore!’” This is all within the first three pages. While Marylou’s character in last year’s film adaptation of On the Road, played by Kristen Stewart, is spared some of the nastier epithets, the story’s misogyny largely lives on unchallenged and uncut. Marylou plays a tiny role in the story, mostly as a “dumb little box” whom Dean and Sal trade around until she gets pregnant and they tire of her.

In casting the authors as eternally and fundamentally adolescent, the recent revival tones down their behavior—both revolutionary and repulsive—as a sort of passing teenage phase, something that young people just sort of do. And in that way, the latest cultural reincarnation both nullifies and excuses the behavior of its leaders. In the end, I’m not sure what’s more offensive—the film’s rampant and unapologetic misogyny or Stewart’s interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, in which she claimed that On the Road told her “that you have to use every second in life. You can’t get complacent and let life pass you by,” as if fathering children and abandoning them is just an essential part of what it means to be free, man.

Pretending Kerouac’s life was some sort of consequence-free dream not only does a disservice to viewers, but to the Beats, as well.

Big Sur, it’s worth noting, is remarkably different from the other films. The film, to its great credit, largely avoids the pitfalls of the others by tackling subject matter that’s less inherently glamorous. An adaptation of Kerouac’s 1962 novel, his first after the publication of On the Road, Big Sur shows Kerouac suffering from the burden of fame and lamenting the fact that he’s no longer young. The film opens with a lightly adapted quote from the novel: “All over America high school and college kids thinking ‘Jack Kerouac is 26 years old and on the road all the time hitchhiking’ while there I am almost 40 years old, bored and jaded.” (Jack Kerouac is known as Jack Duluoz in the book.) The film follows Kerouac as he wanders from Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s cabin in Big Sur to San Francisco and back again, usually in the company of several Beats and lady friends. The film crescendos with Kerouac’s alcohol-induced nervous breakdown, accompanied by a sudden epiphany and strangely chipper ending. Though Kerouac behaves much the same way as he did in On the Road, he doesn’t feel the same way: He becomes obsessed with death and drinking, and the narrative seems to comment on the binary of blessed youth and damned old age.

The misogyny of On the Road also figures into Big Sur, and it gets a little harder to stomach as it becomes clear that it’s not just a phase of adolescence, but rather, it’s seemingly central to the life of a Beat writer. A significant portion of the plot revolves around Neal Cassady’s mistress, whom he introduces to Kerouac. Kerouac, in turn, becomes her lover, promises to marry her, and introduces her to Cassady’s wife. He later calls off the marriage, or any form of commitment, leaving his lover to wonder how she’ll take care of herself and her four-year-old son. Unlike in On the Road, these actions finally begin to reflect upon Cassady and Kerouac in negative ways. Their casual womanizing no longer seems like something fun and rebellious to partake in, but like a deep-seated and decidedly unfortunate character flaw.

Overall, while these films are supposed to offer some vintage escapism, their takes ring hollow. Kerouac may have been a tremendous writer, but the enormity of his art is largely left out of the film adaptations. Even for all the dramatic voiceovers of Kerouac’s prose, On the Road and Big Sur are mostly left to work with muddled and problematic plot points. Still, what’s most problematic about these films isn’t their artistry but their authenticity.

Yes, to some extent, the real Kerouac and Cassady will always be remembered as somewhat youthful. Seven years after the publication of Big Sur, Kerouac died of cirrhosis of the liver, nearly 30 years before both Burroughs and Ginsberg died; Cassady died the previous year at the age of 41. But despite the fact that they “died young,” both of them were said to look far older than their years. One could argue that these films are only trying to honor the spirit of the Beat Generation, but can you separate the “essence” of a story or a movement from what its progenitors really said and did, and at what point in their lives? Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac were grown men who were also alcoholics, misogynists, and womanizers who killed themselves with substance abuse. Pretending Kerouac’s life was some sort of consequence-free dream not only does a disservice to viewers, but to the Beats, as well.

Even at its best, the idea of a revelatory and sensual Beat adventure is rather clichéd, but especially so when divorced from the movement’s great and lasting achievements: Their rebelliousness paved the way for the counterculture of the sixties, and artists from Patti Smith to Thomas Pynchon have hailed the Beats’ style of jazz-like improvisation as an influence. The Beats deserve to be celebrated for the way they lived and what they created, not just for how fun and sexy their escapades may have looked.

TRAILER FROM THE MOVIE “”ON THE ROAD”

http://youtu.be/WlZZntvJ8Q4

THE JACK KEROUAC SCHOOL OF DISEMBODIED POETICS

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jackhttp://www.snagfilms.com/films/title/crazy_wisdom_the_jack_kerouac_school_of_disembodied_poetics

I LIKE TOO MANY THINGS – – JACK KEROUAC

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Jack Kerouac
Jack Kerouac Sold Out
Hand made Lino Cut block prints
I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till i drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion. JACK KEROUAC

 

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HIWAY AMERICA-BIG SUR CA.  HIGHWAY 1-  BETWEEN SAN FRANCISCO BAY AND THE LAS ANGELES AREA- -ALSO ABOUT “BIG SUR” THE NOVEL BY JACK KEROUAC

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Introduction to Big Sur

The name “Big Sur” is derived from the original Spanish-language “el sur grande”, which translates as “the big south”, or from “el país grande del sur”, “the big country of the south”. And so it seemed to early settlers in Monterey. The coastal area to their south was huge and unexplored, and its coastline was especially treacherous to ships.

Some people assume that Big Sur is a state or national park. Though there are state parks in Big Sur, including two with the word “Sur” in their names, they cover only a small fraction of the Big Sur region of the central California coast, and much of what there is to see and do in Big Sur is not in any of the state parks

The Big Sur region, about 89 highway miles (143 km) in length along California’s coastal Highway 1, lies between the San Francisco Bay area and the Los Angeles area. For the purposes of this guide, the Big Sur region’s northern end is at Carmel, approximately 130 road miles (210 km) south of San Francisco and adjacent to Monterey. Its southern end is at San Simeon, approximately 240 road miles (385 km) north of Los Angeles and near Cambria, Morro Bay, and San Luis Obispo.

Like many others, I think of this entire stretch of coastline, together with the western slopes of the Santa Lucia mountain range to the east, as “Big Sur”. To some others, “Big Sur” means only the lower valley of the Big Sur River, where there is a U.S. Post Office in “Big Sur, California 93920”. (There are no borders of this Big Sur, however, because there is no officially-established city or town, just unincorporated county land.) To still others, “Big Sur” means Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and nothing more. (This amuses me because the atmosphere and physical setting of that state park is very different from the rocky coastal environment that means “Big Sur” to many others.) So I suggest that travelers recognize and understand all those uses of the term “Big Sur”. The ambiguity fits the relaxed nature of the region.

Highway 1’s history in Big Sur can be traced back to 1872, when a wagon road was built south from Monterey to Bixby Creek. It was not until 1919 that California’s voters approved bonds to build a modern road. Construction began in 1922, and Highway 1 was officially opened through the Big Sur region in 1937 with the completion of Big Creek Bridge in the southern Big Sur region.

Why does Big Sur intrigue so many people? There is the magnificent coastal scenery, of course. But the region has a colorful recent human history (some of it in books and on film) that is of interest:
  • 1944: Filmmaker and film actor Orson Welles (Citizen Kane, 1941) and his then-wife, film star Rita Hayworth (62 films including You Were Never Lovelier, 1942, opposite Fred Astaire), jointly purchased a log cabin for use as a refuge from the pressures of Hollywood. The property is now the location of Nepenthe Restaurant, whose Web site has a fuller version of this story.
  • 1957: The book Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch, by artist and writer Henry Miller, was published. It is the story of Miller’s life in the Big Sur region. Miller had arrived in Big Sur in 1944. (See also the Books and Maps page.)
  • 1957: The Hearst Corporation donated Hearst Castle® to the State of California, ten years after William Randolph Hearst last visited the area. The first tours of the property were offered to the public in 1958.
  • 1961: The Big Sur Master Plan, said to be the first of its kind for the protection of scenic values, was adopted by Monterey County.
  • 1962: Esalen Institute, a leader in the human potential movement, was founded on the central Big Sur coast, incorporating cliffside hot springs. Abraham Maslow (humanistic and transpersonal psychology), Fritz Perls (Gestalt therapy), and Will Schutz (the bestseller Joy; encounter groups) all influenced Esalen’s early years.
  • 1962: The novel Big Sur, by Beat Generation author Jack Kerouac, was published. The novel is set in San Francisco and in Big Sur’s fictional “Raton Canyon” (said to be modeled after Bixby Canyon) during the summer of 1960 and describes the author’s own mental breakdown. (See also the Books and Maps page.)
  • 1965: The film The Sandpiper, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, was released. Filmed in Big Sur, it portrays a boy and his free-spirited, unwed mother (Taylor) living an idyllic lifestyle in Big Sur. An Episcopalian priest (Burton) initially disapproves of the mother, but eventually they have an illicit affair.
  • Mid to late 1960s: Possibly inspired by The Sandpiper even more than by Kerouac, hippies arrived in large numbers in Big Sur.

Today Big Sur retains some effects of all these influences but is above all slow-paced, low-key, remote, and mostly natural. Seen from Big Sur, the concept of growth and development that drives most modern American communities seems to belong on some other planet. And rightly so.

“In the end, our society will be defined not only by what we create but by what we refuse to destroy.”

“BIG SUR” TRAILER” A NEW SUNDANCE MOVIE 2013 http://filmguide.sundance.org/film/13110/big_sur

HIWAY AMERICA – BIG SUR CA. HIGHWAY 1 BETWEEN SAN FRANCISCO BAY AND THE LAS ANGELES AREA