The Last Time I Committed Suicide

As the world was waiting for Francis Ford Coppola to get busy filming his much-hyped and still-unmade version of 'On The Road', an unknown writer/director named Stephen Kay was quietly working on his own movie about the Neal Cassady legend. "The Last Time I Committed Suicide" is based on a couple of letters Neal wrote to Jack Kerouac about his sexual escapades when he was a horny young (19) stud in Denver.

The film is stronger on atmosphere and style than on plot. Neal is involved with a series of women -- one is suicidal, and another is underage and eager as hell to get into Neal's pants, but unfortunately has a well-connected mother with a hotline into the Denver police force. It's a sort of good-humored story about being hassled and being in love, and it doesn't go much deeper than a typical Eagles song about the same subject ("... seven women on my mind, one that wants to own me, two that want to stone me, one says she's a friend of mine ...").

I enjoyed the film but wasn't knocked out. The most notable thing about it is probably the slick editing, which makes creative use of black-and-white, color, stop motion, etc., all blended into an easy-going, fast-moving, almost MTV-like whole. This film will not tax your brain.

Keanu Reeves is surprisingly bland as a friend of Neal's who turns out to be kind of creepy. The guy who plays Neal does a good job of mimicking the famous Neal voice and look, and is on the whole more convincing than Nick Nolte was in 'Heart Beat'. I also thought the actor who represents the young Allen Ginsberg was passable. Jack Kerouac, interestingly, is not represented at all in the film.

Neal Cassady's letters to Kerouac were said to have had a big impact on Kerouac's eventual writing style. An example of a Cassady letter -- though not one of the letters this film was based on -- is here.

Other Beat-related films

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by Levi Asher