Ketchup Entertainment continues its great track record of releasing some of the best films that you have never seen with a January 14, 2013 release of the film "Big Sur." This well-written, beautifully shot, and wonderfully acted film seems very faithful to the Jack Kerouac novel of the same name on which it is based.
Additionally, the release of this DVD roughly one month after the film "Kill Your Darlings" about the relatively early lives of Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and other "beat generation" legends is very timely. The fact that this release also coincides with new year-related reflections on life that many of us experience is another bonus.
"Sur" catches up with Kerouac roughly 10 years after he achieves fame through his classic work "On the Road," which promotes a very unrestrained lifestyle.
The Kerouac who we meet is much like fellow genuine literary icon J.D. Salinger and screen legend Greta Garbo, both of whom simply want to be left alone after tiring of the fame and fanaticism associated with their celebrity; an important distinction is that no member of this trio becomes a recluse; they simply want to be left in peace to enjoy the corner of the world that they choose to inhabit.
The following trailer, courtesy of YouTube, that Sundance prepared for "Sur" excellently conveys the look and themes of the film. However, using mainstream '60s hits in this presentation is surprising considering the counter-culture messages of Kerouac and the film.
Numerous conflicting emotions that trouble Kerouac include a desire for a relatively quiet and obscure life but depression related to the general public forgetting about him. This angst leads to borrowing a rustic cabin that a friend owns in the woods of the titular northern California town of Big Sur.
Rather than discovering the same tranquility that similar surroundings provided "Walden" author Henry David Thoreau, Kerouac quickly goes stir crazy and looks up Neal Cassidy and his other "Road" era friends. Their fairly limited travels bring them back to the cabin a couple of times.
Candor requires confessing that efforts to like "Road" and to understand its tremendous following failed miserably. This is likely attributable to contentment growing up under relatively happy circumstances in the "kinder gentler" '80s.
The better news is that "Sur" speaks to all of us who have peaked and are experiencing a middle age full of quiet desperation; Kerouac uses the most awesomely poetic prose ever to speak for this generation; not all of us wanted to pile into a VW bus and cross the country as casually as many people go to the supermarket, but most of us can relate to our glory on the athletic field or the pages of scholarly journals fading away.
Many of us can also relate to the suburban sprawl and general overcrowding that is a theme of "Sur." Additionally, the film puts "free love" in the proper context of using sexual activity as a way to express your love for persons of either gender with whom you feel a genuine bond rather than the excuse to just go wild that many of us who spent the "Summer of Love" watching "Lost in Space" reruns and playing in the park every day understood it to represent.
"Sur's" producers recognize the appeal of Kerouac's words by having several scenes in which star Jean-Marc Barr narrates the film by reading passages from the novel. This technique succeeds not only because the writing is that good but because Barr seems to really understand Kerouac. He transforms that man from someone I likely would not have crossed the street to meet to someone who I would have enjoyed chatting with over coffee.
Anyone with questions regarding "Sur" should be sure to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.