Friday, December 28, 2012

Burn, Burn, Burn

Some books are better left alone, and that certainly was the case with On the Road.  After so many years in waiting, I expected something strong from Francis Ford Coppola and Walter Salles, but instead the movie is little more than a chronicle with way too many melodramatic scenes that capture neither the body nor the spirit of Kerouac's classic novel.

The long scroll version came out a few years ago, thanks to Jim Irsay, who bought the scroll and sent it on the road, starting with Boott Cotton Mills in Lowell, Massachusetts.  I suppose he had to cover the hefty price tag that came with his purchase, but for most it was a rare glimpse of this magical scroll.

I was working on Boott Mills in the 80s, during my first stint with the National Park Service, and tried to save a late 19th century reinforced concrete storage building, which was part of the sprawling complex.  Kerouac apparently liked to hang out in it as a kid.  He mentions Boott Mills in The Town and the City.  Unfortunately, the building was razed and a memorial park made in his honor.

The story too seemed flattened in this film, reduced to vignettes underscored by be-bop numbers, like a set of melancholy music videos for a generation raised on MTV.  I supposed that's the way it goes in this day and age, but Walter Salles had given us so much more in Che Guevera's Motorcycle Diaries.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review. As you say, some very good novels just don't make good films. Lampedusa's Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) is a case in point. By the same token, some so-so novels have been turned into terrific films, like No Country for Old Men.