Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Walter Salles: On the Road (Take II)

Now's a good time for a little something about the characters and actors in Walter Salles' 2012 movie version of Jack Kerouac's 1957 novel On the Road, set in the late 1940s in the US and Mexico.

To me, Garrett Hedlund as Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady) is sort of like Val Kilmer playing Jim Morrison in Oliver Stone's The Doors (1991). Moriarty (which happens to be one of my family names back in the mists of time) is a sort of prototype for tens of thousands of Americans living in the early 21st century -- careless, reckless, chaotic and driven. One of the best details about him -- which is not the case with his spiritual descendents, I'm guessing, is his holding onto a copy of Marcel Proust's Swann's Way throughout most of the frenetic journeys depicted in On the Road. In Swann's Way (the first part of Proust's massive novel À la recherche du temps perdu / In Search of Lost Time), Swann's obsession with Odette is a powerful thread that ties everything together; in On the Road, obsession runs through Moriarty's psyche (obsessions with fast driving, drugs and sex -- seeking and escaping) and ties him in knots. Several other characters, men and women, are equally obsessed with Moriarty, who serves as a fast-moving Pied Piper for their scurrying activities. Dean Moriarty has some ambition to be a writer himself, so when he hands Swann's Way off, we get the idea that he's finished with that notion.

Kristen Stewart as Marylou has a damaged, mischievous Chloë Sevigny vibe. As for the other women characters, well, let's face it: Jack Kerouac's On the Road is a far cry from a feminist manifesto. Though Simone de Beauvoir's Le Deuxième Sexe / The Second Sex was published in 1949, this is not Sur la route in France, but rather North America, and second wave feminism was not yet manifest here. In any case, there are brief interludes that include Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men), Alice Braga, Kirsten Dunst, Amy Adams and Marie-Ginette Guay, among others.

Viggo Mortensen is a hoot as Old Bull Lee (William S. Burroughs) -- right on.

The hardest role is that of Sal Paradise (Jack Kerouac). Sam Riley does a superb job with it -- despite sometimes over-the-top corny vocal delivery (this is really how Kerouac wrote and spoke). Who is this guy, this actor? It finally hit me afterward -- my God, he's the British dude who played Joy Division vocalist Ian Curtis in Control (the 2007 film directed by Anton Corbijn)!  Ian Curtis -- Mr. Gloom himself -- committed suicide while (or was it right after?) listening to Iggy Pop's The Idiot, while also watching Werner Herzog's Stroszek, the offbeat film that ends in the mountains of North Carolina with a Cherokee tribal deputy on the radio to a dispatcher: "We have a 10-80 out here, a truck on fire, we have a man on the lift. We are unable to find the switch to turn the lift off, can't stop the dancing chickens. Send an electrician, we're standing by." It's those damn dancing chickens again, from Chagall to Pop and Fellini . . . worth noting repeatedly because yes, Virginia, everything really does connect to every other thing, plus the effort to make these crazy connections manifest keeps the synapses lively and dementia at bay -- maybe. But back to Sam Riley in On the Road -- he gets an A for his performance.

Today's Rune: Protection.  


Charles Gramlich said...

I did not know about this movie, although I figured there had been films made about the book.

jodi said...

Erik, Dane forced me read this. Can't say I loved it. I will check out the movie-probably with him, tho!