On the Road hits the screen!

Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’ a frenzied tale about liberation, masculinity and post-war America premiered on Wednesday in Cannes marking its debut on the screen. The Bible of the Beat Generation portraying the ‘Beat’ culture took more than five decades to make it to the big screen from a novel. It was furiously written by Kerouac while on a three week long creative bout in 1951.

The movie adaptation by director Walter Salles called ‘Motorcycle Diaries’ tries to capture the energy and drug-fuelled stream of consciousness of the original book. The film stars British actor Sam Riley as the protagonist Sal Paradise and the U.S actor Garrett Hedlund as Dean Moriarty, a symbol of American masculinity and poster child for living in the moment. The suave adventurous conman becomes the protagonists’ alter ego and their close friendship plays out across a series of road trips. Salles told reporters in Cannes, “It’s about the loss of innocence; it’s about the search for that last frontier they’ll never find, it’s about also discovering that this is the end of the road and the end of the American dream”. Kristen Stewart plays Moriarty’s young wife Marylou while Kirsten Dunst plays second wife Camille and Viggo Mortensen takes on the roles of Old Bull Lee based on the character of William Burroughs. Salles sates that the team’s respect for Kerouac helped drive the process from the time Ford Francis Coppola bought the rights of the novel in 1979. Francis’ son Roman who is also a co-producer of the film said that the idea of making the novel into a movie was disregarded until Salles took over the project. Roman said, “It took 30 years but it was such a natural fit with Walter”.

The early reviews of the film were negative, British newspaper The Telegraph wrote, “tedious loop of beatnik debauchery” while The Evening Standard said, “it seems to lack the mad passion of Jack Kerouac’s ferocious and extraordinary writing”. The quest for freedom of the body and mind takes the lead characters back on a road journey to the jazz clubs, flop houses, migrant camps and rail depots. Salles to the press, “A road movie I think is what made me into a film maker and I’m very loyal to it”. The movie captures America’s vastness from New York to San Francisco and to the long roads and endless skies in between but as the character’s start to age the realization of responsibility dawns upon them.

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