Garrett Hedlund as Dean Moriarty/Neal Cassady in On the Road (2012). Neal Cassady in Magic Trip (2011). Michael Fassbender in Shame (2011).
September 27, 2012
September 22, 2012
September 16, 2012
It all seems so long ago. On the road, hitch-hiking towards Denver, Sal Paradise (a miscast Sam Riley) gets a lift with a bunch of guys who could be extras from Days of Heaven or The Grapes of Wrath. On the Road is more history than story now, especially if it comes via the precise, respectful period representations in the new Walter Salles film. This is a handsome, flawed, slightly dull adaptation – more traditional and less “meta” than either David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch or Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s Howl, both of which added context to the beat text, extending literary adaptations towards unconventional biopics. Compared to them, On the Road is an enclosed world and while we see Paradise/Jack Kerouac at work – he is bystander and note-taker – there isn’t much connection between the exuberant voice on the page and the quiet man on screen. But beyond Riley, the casting mostly works – especially Garrett Hedlund as irresponsible, charismatic Dean Moriarty/Neal Cassady, Viggo Mortensen as Old Bull Lee/William S Burroughs, Kristen Stewart as teenage seductress Marylou, although Tom Sturridge makes little impression as Carlo Marx/Allen Ginsberg – and Eric Gautier shoots the American landscape beautifully. Maybe too beautifully. But those are technical issues. There are bigger problems. What does this stuff mean to anyone now? Especially when the real names are still hidden behind the legal fictions. Salles’ not dissimilar and much better The Motorcycle Diaries ran as prologue to the Che Guevara story with a road journey as a political education but there isn’t much sense of why this story should matter to those who don’t already know it and who are comfortable with its protective pseudonyms. Maintaining the pseudonyms also means that Salles and writer Jose Rivera can’t give the film’s end the poignancy it deserves: it would help to know that the real life Paradise and Moriarty both drank themselves to death in their forties.
September 13, 2012
“These things happen to poor people who live in exposed areas. Society is set up in such a way that it’s the poor and the uneducated who suffer the main impact of natural and man-made disasters. People in low-lying areas get the floods, people in shanties get the hurricanes and tornados. I’m a college professor. Did you ever see a college professor rowing a boat down his own street in one of those TV floods?” -- Don DeLillo, from White Noise (1985). Photo: Christchurch, September 3, 2012.
September 12, 2012
September 11, 2012
September 5, 2012
September 4, 2012
I was going to do with No Regrets: Writings on Scott Walker (edited by Rob Young, The Wire/Orion Books, 2012), the thing I did with a book about Sonic Youth and the book about the Heavenly Creatures girls -- that is, list the movie titles that appear in the text in the hope that it may reveal something. But despite a few sentences like these, negotiating the original paradox of Walker as enigmatic, even unwilling pop star ...
In some ways, Scott was a Swedish film maker trapped in the life of a pop heart-throb. This was a ridiculous position to be in during the UK music industry of the mid-60s.... and ...
Away from the fleshpots of the West End, the cinema was increasingly a place of refuge, with Scott still actively satiating his appetite for foreign movies.... there isn't much, not until you get to Walker's song about The Seventh Seal on Scott 4. And then, near the end, a real burst of casual film fandom, from an interview with Rob Young, in 2006:
ROB YOUNG: With European cinema, does anything do it for you now? When you first arrived it was the heyday of Godard, Pasolini, Tarkovsky, Bresson -- that pantheon. Now that that's a gone era, has anything replaced it?
SCOTT WALKER: Well, there isn't a lot. But funnily enough, in the last year, I've seen two great French films and a great Belgian one recently. I saw [Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne's] The Child, L'Enfant ... I've seen [Michael Haneke's] Hidden -- fantastic film -- and I've seen [Jacques Audiard's] The Beat That My Heart Skipped. You get a run, fantastic run, suddenly. Hidden's like an old-fashioned art movie, it's almost back there with those guys. So they do surprise you now and then, just when you've given up. 'Cause the French make, what is it, like 200 films or something a year, and some of them are shocking, compared with what they used to do.
ROB: Have you seen The Werckmeister Harmonies, the Bela Tarr movie?
SCOTT: I've seen it, with the big whale [laughs] ...
ROB: Somehow that came to mind listening to the new album ...
SCOTT: Yes, I've seen that one. It's funny you should mention that, because the [American journalist] I was on the phone with earlier, he's seen the latest one, he said the title [The Man From London], I said, I don't know that. Maybe it's not here yet. He was very excited about that director. But yeah, he's interesting, it's a very Eastern European sense that he has. I like that.
ROB: Slow pace, a lot of space unresolved, and then big startling gestures ...
SCOTT: That's an appealing thing.