Intellectual Curiosities and Provocations

Kerouac Goes To Cannes, and Other Beat News

By Levi Asher on Tuesday, January 10, 2012 08:35 pm

1. After (seriously) 17 years of development, the major new Hollywood Walter Salles/Francis Ford Coppola film of On The Road is going to premiere on May 23, four months and twelve days from now, at the Cannes Film Festival in the French Riviera. I can't believe the day is actually going to come.

I'm not sure what to expect from this film, but there's no doubt that Jack Kerouac, a Breton Francophile, would have been pleased about a prestigious Cannes festival premiere. Very little is currently known about the film of On The Road, and only a single still image has been seen: the photo above, showing Kristen Stewart and Garrett Hedlund as Marylou and Dean Moriarty apparently in one of the movie's big dance numbers. The image may give some idea of the director's photographic style (muted colors, naturalistic setting, not bad so far), but there's no word yet on what the entire film is like. I'm looking forward to seeing a preview trailer soon. Thanks to the Beat Museum in San Francisco (always the first place to check for news about this film) for the scoop about the opening at Cannes. (For the record, the news is still unconfirmed, but it's true.)

2. The two main characters in On The Road are Dean Moriarty and Sal Paradise, but since Kristen Stewart is the biggest star in the film, the character of Marylou will probably receive special emphasis. Marylou was based on Neal Cassady's real-life wife Luanne Henderson, and those interested in learning more about this little-known figure from Beat Generation history will enjoy One and Only: The Untold Story of On the Road, a new book by Gerald Nicosia and Anne Marie Santos that tells the story of On The Road (and all that followed) from a new point of view. As the youngest and least commanding member of the real-life Kerouac/Cassady traveling entourage fictionalized in On The Road, Luanne has often been imagined or depicted by literary biographers as a hapless unfortunate, caught in the Beat Generation whirlwind and then left behind after they became famous. One and Only presents Luanne as more knowing and more in control of her situation than Kerouac's novel depicts, and also shows her to be a remarkable, intuitive, sensitive and courageous woman.

3. Here's another worthwhile sideways look at the Beat Generation: Allen Ginsberg's friend Gordon Ball has written the entire story of the Cherry Valley quasi-commune in upstate New York that became the rural getaway for New York City poets needing sunshine, cows and distance from their heroin supplies, and remained in happy operation for over three decades. I've been to Cherry Valley, a charming and poet-friendly small town, and I'm glad the story of this bucolic Beat refuge has now been told in full: East Hill Farm: Seasons with Allen Ginsberg by Gordon Ball.

4. The great City Lights bookstore in San Francisco has begun a web podcast series. Here's Stephen Elliot reading Charles Bukowski.

5. Gil Scott-Heron has written a memoir (lot of that going around, and I'm glad it is!). The book, which has just been posthumously published, is called The Last Holiday.

6. Good vibes: Occupy Wall Street Poetry.

17 Responses to "Kerouac Goes To Cannes, and Other Beat News"

by YES on

FINALLY YES i can't wait to hear how this movie is omg

by WIREMAN on

.......way... way... way overdue......marylou a major player in the movie and dance numbers.....i'm apprehensive......

by Bill_Ectric on

I like the diagram in item 6, which shows an intersection of OWS & Tea Party goals.

by Eamon on

As most of us are well aware, the movie will have a very difficult time overcoming the ol' "The book was way better" routine. A certain angle would need to be explored so as not to challenge the legend of the book. That being said, Francis Ford Coppola would be just the person to find such an angle. Thanks for keeping us informed Levi. I look forward to this!

I'm currently re-reading ON THE ROAD and I'm no expert about the Beats, but I'm not sure what to think about a movie that puts emphasis (let alone stars) Kristin Stewart. Not that I think this will be a deadly mistake for Walter Salles' movie but if Marylou is at the center of the movie, I can't see it being about much more than the first fifty pages (the New York to Denver part).

Not that it would make a bad movie, but it would (to me, at least) be a disappointment if it doesn't capture the sprawling majesty and the innocence Kerouac has put in his novel. What I mean here is that I think ON THE ROAD is somewhat impervious to the strict formatting a movie would ask of it.

by Levi Asher on

I also have low expectations for the film. The fact that it finished shooting nearly a year ago and has spent so long in the "final cut" phase indicates to me that it is flopping in preview screenings. An expensive film (like this one) doesn't get released until it passes the preview screening test, and often a film will be reworked and dumbed down if preview audiences don't like it. I suspect that may be happening here.

I hope I'm wrong, though, and I will keep an open mind.

As for Kristen Stewart, though, I am optimistic. I watched about half of "Twilight" (which is all I could stand to sit through) when it recently ran on TV so I could see who this actress is. It's a pretty dumb vampire movie, but I am impressed with Kristen Stewart. She seems rather intelligent, appears to have some acting talent, and is probably a cut above the typical teen-star bimbo actress. One reason for hope.

by Patricia Marvin on

Cherry Valley, a poet and artist intersection. I had heard stories from Burroughs about Cherry Valley, Mary Beach, the Plymells, plus more. The community has such a great presence, there is a beating vitality to it. I am glad some of the history and the activity there is getting more recognition. After years of stories I finally was able to visit. I got to meet Mary Beach, before she passed and she was just great, a talented woman, with candor and wit and an important person in beat history.

by WIREMAN on

....now you've got me really wondering about this flick levi......think i will reread on the road for old times sake....i reread dharma bums back in the spring and could not put it down.....also thanks for the Gil Scott link...what an influence in the 70's, beyond the "revolution will not be televised"....i love the beat links you provide...thanks again....

by TKG on

Small fyi, there are more stills

This Beat Museum link has a number of them.

It's also got a picture of Gerry Nicosia with the cast. There was an article in the NY Times a few months back (maybe a year or more actually) about how he provided background for the cast. This included playing the tapes of LuAnn Henderson that are the main content in The One and Only.

I like your comments on that book. It's very good and great to read her memories and thoughts verbatim as transcript. Nicosia's comments are good as well.

What's rather amazing about this place in time is that there's even another Kerouac movie coming out with a A list Hollywood actors. Big Sur is being made in to a movie by the director that made The Astronaut Farmer. It's in post-production.

by Levi Asher on

Thanks for the link, TKG. I had seen these other images too, but I wasn't sure if they were stills from the film or just photos of the actors on the set. But you're probably right -- a few of them do appear to be stills from the film.

I am looking forward to the Big Sur movie too!

by Mickie King on

Wasn't there some kind of hold up from family members too? I want to say I read that somewhere. I'm just glad it's finally out there because I loved the book and with all the great actors in there, it'll be great.

by Levi Asher on

Mickie, I had also heard that a Kerouac estate/family dispute might be holding the film up, but that appears to be just a rumor, and John Sampas (the guy who runs the Kerouac estate) told me directly that it's not true.

by Jas on

I just wanted to ask you regarding the movie premiering at Cannes. What do you mean by "the news is still unconfirmed, but it's true." I'm not sure if you can disclose but did you get a confirmation regarding the Cannes premiere or is it just a speculation on your part. Looking forward to seeing this movie.

by Levi Asher on

Jas, I do not get (or ask for) confirmation from Cannes, but I have looked at evidence from various sources and have concluded that this information is reliable enough to report.

While we're mentioning On the Road and Big Sur, it was also announced that Elizabeth Olsen, Dane DeHaan, and Jack Huston will star alongside Daniel Radcliffe and possibly Chris Evans and Ben Whishaw in Kill Your Darlings about Kammerer's murder.

by Levi Asher on

Thanks for the reminder, Stephanie -- yes, there sure are a lot of high-profile Kerouac-related films coming out soon. I wonder which of them will still be worth seeing ten years from now.

The story of the Kammerer murder (which Kerouac was involved in before he became a writer) was also a Courtney Love movie, "Beat". I saw it a few years ago and liked it, but it was pretty much a flop.

by Eric Wilken on

I just watched American Graffiti again last night. I saw Kerouac influencing the film in so many ways, especially in the Richard Dreyfuss character. With Francis Ford Coppola involved in the film, I have some hope that it might grasp some feeling of the novel and the times.

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