Kerouac's novel Big Sur Examined in "One Fast Move or I'm Gone"
Kerouac told Lawrence Ferlinghetti in a letter once, "Four years of drunken chaos was the cause." He
was referring to his novel Big Sur. After the gigantic overnight success of On the Road, Kerouac's life changed dramatically, mostly in a negative way. With his sudden notoriety, Kerouac also lost his anonimity, and to keep himself buffered from an increasingly demanding public, he drank. And drank. And...
Kerouac had always been a prodigious drinker,
but during this period, his alcoholism escalated to dangerous levels. Recognizing the toll it was taking
on his physical health and mental state, Kerouac sequestered himself in Ferlinghetti's cabin in Big
Sur to dry out, and a novel came out of his retreat
from the world and subsequent return to it - titled
Big Sur. In the novel, Kerouac recounts facing his many demons and doesn't flinch in the telling. He
also recalls the rapturous bliss of being alone in
nature with only himself and the divine.
One Fast Move or I'm Gone (a line from the
novel, by which Kerouac meant that if he didn't get up and do something right away, he would disappear into the depths of depression) looks at the novel Big Sur, with commentary by many famous people who were either friends of Kerouac's or fans. Carolyn Cassady and her two children, Joyce Johnson, Ferlinghetti, Patti Smith, Sam Shepherd, Tom Waits, Lenny Kaye, Dar Williams and others weigh in on what the book meant to them, how Kerouac affected their lives, how they viewed his genius and tragic flaws. The movie presents an interesting critique of the man, loving
but unflinching, respectful yet cognizant of its sad outcome.
Patti Smith has the best word on Kerouac's imprison- ment by fame. Kerouac was dubbed "King of the Beats," and Smith notes insightfully, "People hate
and embrace their monikers. I'm sure every king hates being king but is king." Meaning Kerouac was greatly proud of who he was - he sought the crown, then was torn over having to wear it.
Actor John Ventimiglia of the Sopranos recreates Kerouac's voice as narrator to perfection.The music soundtrack was written and recorded for the film by Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and Jay Farrar
of Son Volt. It works well for the film, acoustic guitars strumming atmospheric chords, a few notes picked here and there. There are some songs as well, where they took Kerouac's prose and forced it into lyrics - which is exactly what it sounds like.
The film is beautifully shot with perfectly rendered locations, which, with the inclusion of still photos, achival film footage and celebrity interviews, all prevent the movie from ever turning academic or dull. Anyone interested in Kerouac will enjoy it completely. For others, it's a fascinating but sad introduction to one of America's greatest writers, a blazingly brilliant man who was addicted to bliss and eventually ended up tapping it in its most reliable source, the bottle.