Sunday, April 07, 2013

"On the Road": a young writer tastes real life with his "friends", taking off all over the country, right after WWII

When use the term “On the Road”, I usually picture myself in a chain hotel, with my electronics, including a smaller travel laptop, and limited supplies otherwise. To a baseball team, it means having to survive the bottom of the ninth inning.

When I was a graduate student at the University of Kansas, in December 1966, a few of us rode from Lawrence to San Francisco, crashing somewhere around Redwood City, then drove north to Seattle and Vancouver, before I flew home for Christmas.  I had never been west of Topeka, at 23.  We drove an “in transit” car from Kansas City and “took off”.

With films from American Zeotrope and Francis Ford Coppola behind them, you never know. “On the Road” (dir. Walter Salles) looks like an eclectic period piece (set in the late 1940s), made in the style of an 80s or early 90s' film (like "Barton Fink" or "Thelma and Louise"). Sal (Sam Riley, playing a character patterned after the novel author Jack Keruoac) is a young writer (everything on typewriters, and you couldn’t publish yourself), and has the adventure of young manhood crisscrossing the country several times with his less stable friends, especially Dean Moriarity (Garrett Hedund), who is uncertain about the idea of marriage and fatherhood with teen Maylou (Kristen Stewart).
This is a pre-McCarthy world (just barely), where men embrace and hug one another, as long as there are women around to make babies.  Dean gradually comes to be shown as bisexual, willing to “do me” for money in one scene.   Tom Sturridge plays Carlo Marx, a character patterned after Alan Ginsberg (review Nov. 26, 2010), and he definitely "gets it" in one early scene; Viggo Mortensen plays old Bull Lee, based on Edgar Rice Burroughs (March 1, 2012). 

There's a bit of class consciousness in the film, since Sal's hands are soft, and he gets criticized in metaphor for his low output when working in a cotton field in California,

The site for the film (also called “The Mad Ones”) is here. , and it is distributed by IFC and Sundance Channel, but it was made with all kinds of resources, including Film4 in the UK, French television, Icon, Canada, and studios in Louisiana and Arizona.  It is also distributed by Lionsgate in the UK.
I saw the film at the West End Cinema Sunday Night.  I had played at Landmark R Street last week.  

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