Thursday, 28 April 2016

On The Road (3½ Stars)

I've noticed something over the last few years. It might have been happening longer, but it's only become apparent to me in the last five years. It's become customary for films to have the logos, usually animated, of several different studios shown at the beginning of films. This is in contrast to the good old days when only one film studio logo was shown. My assumption is that the logos advertise all the studios that contributed to the financing of a film. The smaller a film is, the more studios are displayed. For instance, "On the Road" begins with the following six logos.

Lionsgate, for 21 seconds.

Icon, for 13 seconds.

Sundance, for 8 seconds.

IFC, for 7 seconds

MK2, for 11 seconds.

Film 4, for 11 seconds.

That's a total of 71 seconds, more than a minute, that the viewer is forced to sit through the opening animated logos. I'm curious whether the length of the logos has any relationship to the percentage of the cash that each studio provided.

The book "On the Road", written by Jack Kerouac in 1957, is recognised as one of the most significant novels of the 20th Century. Considering its importance, it's amazing that the film was a failure at the box office, despite its abundance of famous actors. It tells the story of Jack Kerouac's friendship with the con man and thief Neal Cassady from 1947 to 1950. In the book the characters are given fictional names, although it's obvious who is referred to. Sal Paradise is Jack Kerouac, Dean Moriarty is Neal Cassady, Carlo Marx is Allen Ginsberg, Old Bull Lee is William Burroughs, etc.

The film shows Jack and Neal travelling across America on various occasions, usually accompanied by other friends or relatives. The main cities they visit are New York (Jack's home), San Francisco (Neal's home) and Denver (the city where Neal's father lived).

If the book has a message, it's lost in the film. I can only guess what Jack Kerouac was trying to tell his readers. Jack portrays himself as relatively reserved, carried along by the youth movement of the post-war generation rather than being a part of it. Neal Cassady is a reckless, carefree person. He's introduced as the man who stole 500 cars, which immediately makes him a hero among the New York anarchists. He's sexually promiscuous, despite his attempts to be faithful to his second wife, but he's sad to the core. His life is empty. In the end we see him clinging to Jack to find happiness, but Jack rejects him.

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