Sunday, February 25, 2018

Curation #10 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Big Sur (the movie)

Item #10 in the curation project of my Kerouac bookshelf is my DVD of Big Sur.

This is a 2013 film directed by Michael Polish (run time = 81 minutes). Jean-Marc Barr plays Kerouac, Kate Bosworth plays Billie, Josh Lucas plays Neal Cassady, and Radha Mitchell plays Carolyn Cassady. You'd likely recognize Anthony Edwards as Lawrence Ferlinghetti. The character list goes on for a bit, from Patrick Fischler as Lew Welch to Stana Katic (of the TV show, Castle) as Lenora. Henry Thomas of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial fame has a fairly brief role as Philip Whalen.

You will note that I used the real-life names of characters as opposed to the pseudonyms Jack used in the novel. That is because the film uses the real-life names of characters (with on exception being Lenora for Roman instead of Lenore)! I'm not sure how they swung that legally, but it's definitely an arguable approach. Some will love it, some will not. I thought it was a non-issue and appreciated it. Purists may disagree.

Overall, I thought this was a decent adaptation of Kerouac's novel (which, by the way, is one of my favorites). The casting was acceptable. I liked Barr as Kerouac more than I thought I would from the trailers (but his toupé is awful). Bosworth as Billie and Mitchell as Carolyn were appropriate choices, and Josh Lucas is not a bad Neal Cassady. Fischler as Lew Welch seemed to strike the right notes.

I've never watched the film to analyze its accuracy with the novel. I try not to do that with films because it ruins my enjoyment of them. Directors and screenwriters always take liberties with novels when they bring them to screen, and I don't see the point of screaming over and over, "That's not how it was in the novel!" Films and novels are different genres, and what works for one doesn't necessarily work for the other. I do think Big Sur is more film-able than On The Road, but I am really waiting for the film adaptation of The Dharma Bums, my favorite Kerouac novel.

I thought the film captured the essence of the novel, adequately portraying Kerouac's angst and breakdown in Big Sur. The acting was serviceable if not above average. There are a sufficient amount of voice-overs using Kerouac's own words from the novel, and the cinematography is beautiful.

I've watched this film numerous times and I like it more each time. I found some of the dialogue tough to discern, but that is likely from my diminished hearing acuity (that's why they have closed captioning).

The DVD is available from Amazon (see link below), and I'd recommend it if you are a Kerouac fan.

Below is a picture of the top shelf of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of my Big Sur DVD (6th item in the pile) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: a William S. Burroughs documentary.

The top of my Kerouac bookshelf

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