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Genres - Jazz

Why You Should See Jack Kerouac's 'Big Sur'...the Movie

by Ross Smirnoff   Nov 21, 2013 16:25 PM EST

"His grittiest book...sensual and uninhibited." -- the New York Times
(Photo : Ross Smirnoff)

Jack Kerouac's last acclaimed novel--Big Sur--has been adapted for the big silver screen.

Unlike On the Road, Big Sur's adaptation has received critical acclaim. I went to see the movie earlier this month at Cinema Village because I have been a fan of Kerouac since reading Dharma Bums in college.

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Big Sur presents a more jaded version of the author's career. Having already received success and fame, he is bored and seeks yet another revival of inspiration. Although all of his utopian ideals that the Beat generation garnered in the 1950's seem to be put by the wayside as he entered the '60s with many fans and cultural recognition under his belt, he is still searching spiritually--although he seems to have many answers.

This is best displayed in the many scenes of joy and philanthropy he offers to his many friends. There is also despair, in the form of the author's alcoholism, which his friends seem to indulge, but also caution at times.

Big Sur's greatest moments are when the filmmaker incorporates parts of the author's dialogue from the book into the movie during scenes filmed in bizarre sequences. For example, there is a scene where Kerouac hallucinates that the devil is coming after him, and the scene takes a psychedelic approach to resolving the melding of the film's music, cinematography and narrative.

Overall, though, the film conveys the author's remarkable ability to spit out words like they're jazz notes--to perceive very large ideas about the universe, god, our purpose and spiritual development in his rapid fire analysis of the world. All this goes on through the gaze of the alcoholism which merely hampers the author's emotions and ability to take in those beautiful moments of freedom and spontaneity that the Beats represented.

What happens in Big Sur is post-Beat, pre-hippie angst that offers a dichotomy of amusing and tragic perspectives on a generation that is on the verge of something culturally important...but never quite gets there, held back by stereotype and conformity.

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