Watch the Trailer for Michael Polish’s New Kerouac Adaptation ‘Big Sur’

In a little over a week from now, a huge slate of new and impressive films will hit Sundance—and we couldn’t be more excited. Although a select few we’ve been lucky enough to screen already, there are plenty in the lineup we’re anticipating—not only for ourselves but for audiences to get thrilled about. Hopefully, the festival’s exposure will have distributors snatching up projects, but so far, the one’s we’re looking forward to are: The East, Upstream Color, The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman, Fill the Void, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, C.O.G, Before Midnight, Interior.Leather Bar., and now, the latest from Michael Polish, Big Sur. Adapted from the Jack Kerouac novel of the same title, the film stars Kate Bosworth, Jean-Marc Barr, Bathazar Getty and will focus on:

…a moment in Jack Kerouac’s life when, overwhelmed by the success of his opus On the Road and struggling with alcoholism, he retreats to his publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s cabin in the small, coastal California town of Big Sur, which eventually inspires his 1962 novel of the same name. Kerouac’s time begins with quiet moments of solitude and communing with nature. But, struck by loneliness, he hightails it to San Francisco, where he resumes drinking heavily and gets pushed into a relationship with his best friend Neal Cassady’s mistress, Billie.

While writer/director Michael Polish (Twin Falls Idaho) explores a less glamorous moment in Kerouac’s legacy—one of alienation and mental breakdown—Big Sur equally examines the beauty of this time in the writer’s life, witnessed in the romance of friendship and the purity of nature. Jean-Marc Barr embodies Kerouac’s intelligence and masculinity, but also portrays him at his most contemplative and vulnerable. Luscious and breathtaking, Big Sur approaches a religious cinematic experience.

When adapting a novel to the screen, the point is breathe fresh life into the narrative, to pick up where the prose left off creatively. You want the audience to be able to feel or envision what they could only imagine between the words of the novel—taking the brilliance of the text and bringing it to life, not simply doing a visual depiction each scene. That is, unfortunately, where Walter Salles’ On the Road fell short—it paid tribute to Kerouac’s book but too much so, in the sense that it unfolded like a novel itself, not showing the cinematic possibilities of his breathless, stream-of-consciousness style. Hopefully, this will prove other wise.

As of now, Big Sur has yet to find a distributor but we’re looking forward to seeing where it heads out the gate from Sundance.

Walter Salles Evokes The Spirit Of Jack Kerouac In ‘On The Road’

“I’m prayIng that you buy On the Road and make a movie of it,” implored Jack Kerouac in a letter to Marlon Brando in 1957. The actor never responded, and it’s been more than half a century since, but the beat author’s seminal meditation on the youthful hunger for sex, kicks, and enlightenment has finally made it to the big screen.

Kerouac infamously wrote On the Road—his stream of consciousness tale about the search for identity as played out by Kerouac and co-conspirator Neal Cassady’s alter egos Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty— on a single, 120-foot scroll of taped-together tracing paper in just three weeks. But it’s taken more than 30 years since Francis Ford Coppola first bought the film rights to the novel in 1979 for a cinematic adaptation to be brought to life, courtesy of Puerto Rican screenwriter José Rivera and Brazilian director Walter Salles. Salles’ work has a simpatico relationship with Keroauc’s writing—an affinity for the open road as both an adventure and a new frontier for the mind. “When I first read On the Road, I was eighteen and had just entered university,” says Salles. “The book was so relevant to us because it had the magic of something we could not do in our country.”

“Here’s a generation that believed that in order to expand your understanding of the world, you had to live through the experiences that would heighten all your senses,” says Salles. “This was about living all these experiences in the flesh and not vicariously.”

Bringing the novel from page to screen has proven to be a challenge for writers and directors from Barry Gifford and Gus Van Sant to Joel Schumacher and Coppola himself—their attempts all thwarted before completing the transformation. When adapting such breathless prose for the screen, Salles recognized that, “like jazz, where the instrument is an extension of the muscian,” Kerouac had a writing style in which the typewriter was an extension of himself. In order to bring that vitality and energy to life, the film had to have an “impressionistic quality,” keeping the camera close to the actor’s body, aiming to connect the audience with the character’s experience. Salles says he only strayed from the novel in order to stay faithful to Kerouac’s sense of urgency. “We were all conscious that we needed to find something fresh and new every single day in order to be in sync with Kerouac,” he says.

Although Salles’ On the Road pays respect to the novel and captures the essence of Kerouac’s vision, there’s a gnawing dissonance between reading the author’s words and hearing them recited in a film. Reading On the Road is an intimate and thrilling experience, but an inevitable amount of magic is lost in the translation as it plays out onscreen. Despite the fact that the long and winding road to the novel’s cinematic debut satisfies our visual curiosities of the text, it raises the question: are some parts of the road better left unpaved?

What To Watch At Cannes

Today the 65th Annual Cannes Film Festival kicks off, meaning gorgeous people are spending time watching movies and frolicking on French beaches while you sit in the office and read about it. Glamorous, no?

Say what you will about the celebrity industrial complex, but at least the Cannes fest does feature some excellent films—and is always good for an unscripted moment—that will eventually make their way to a cineplex near you. But what to watch?

Cosmopolis: How could a Don DeLillo book turned into a David Cronenberg movie go wrong? Starring an increasingly serious Robert Pattinson as a Wall Streeter whose world collapses on a drive across Manhattan, the movie is giving us shades of American Psycho but with something like the Batmobile. Sold!

On The Road: The Motorcycle Diaries director Walter Salles takes on Jack Kerouac’s legendary book with the help of, uh, Kristen Stewart. Sure it’ll probably glamorize the Beats and have some sort of moral, but all of this naked driving looks worth the price of admission.

Rise of the Guardians: One of the festival’s opening pictures, Dreamworks’ Guardians is about an Avengers-like team of Santa, The Tooth Fairy, The Sandman and The Easter Bunny who team up to save the planet from evil. The movie will be released stateside around the holidays and is sure to grace every plastic soft drink cup you purchase toward the end of 2012.

Rust and Bone: From the director of 2009’s big-deal film A Prophet, this French flick delves into the bond between a homeless man and a whale trainer played by Marion Cotillard.

Lawless: Guy Pearce, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman and Shia LaBeouf star in this Prohibition-era tale about schemers, bootleggers and lawmen during the Great Depression.

The Dictator: There’s also Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest, The Dictator, for which he reportedly paraded a camel down one of Cannes main streets as a publicity stunt. It might not be brilliant, or even close to as funny as some of his older work, but there will be a laugh or two. And you might as well embrace it, avoiding this will be difficult.

‘On The Bro’d’: Kerouac for Frat Boys

Whether you think Jack Kerouac was an American visionary or a self-aggrandizing ass in need of an editor, you’ve got to admit that he was a total bro. The Beats were basically a frat on permanent spring break, driving from coast to coast talking shit, slayin’, chayin’, and getting mighty messed up. For evidence, give Kerouac’s livejournal-esque novel On the Road a quick look. Or better yet, check out the new blog On The Bro’d, a sentence-for-sentence re-imagining of On The Road translated into the language of the contemporary bro. Excerpt after the jump.

“As we rode in my Land Rover in the weird phosphorescent void of South Campus we leaned on each other (no homo) fingers waving and yelled and talked excitedly, and I was beginning to get fucking buzzed like Dean. He was simply a straight-up player, and though he could be kind of a douche, he was only a douche because he wanted so much to party and to lay chicks who would otherwise pay no attention to him. He was being sort of a douche to me and I knew it (crashing at my pad and learning the acoustic axe, etc.), and dude knew I knew it, but I didn’t give a shit and we partied fine— no bitching and moaning; we tiptoed around each other like heartbreaking new bros.”

Kristen Stewart Gets Stoned In a Different Era

Shooting has started on the film adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, directed by Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries), and starring Kristen Stewart, Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, and Amy Adams, among others. MTV.com has pics of Stewart on set, looking like her usual self, but in fifties hepcat garb. It’s an interesting decision to use the film’s wallet to fill the female roles in what is essentially a male-dominated story. The relatively unknown Sam Riley will play Kerouac stand-in Sal Paradise. Paradise’s best friend and object of homo-erotic obsession Dean Moriarty (based on Neal Cassady) will be played by the only slightly more known Garrett Hedlund, who starred opposite Brad Pitt on the movie Troy, but hasn’t done much since.

An adaptation of On the Road is a daunting and difficult task, but Salles seems to be the man for the job. The Motorcycle Diaries, while not a masterpiece, was beautifully shot, and it will be fun to see what Salles does for the American landscape. Stewart and Mortensen were born to hang with the Beats (see Viggo as a hippie stud in the indie date night classic A Walk On the Moon), and casting an unknown as Paradise feels like the right call too; it re-affirms the writer character’s role as chronicler of events, always on the outskirts, never the star. Possibly the oddest casting decision here is including Amy Adams in the movie. After her Oscar-nominated breakout performance in Junebug, Adams has stuck to mostly mainstream middlebrow fare, playing essentially the same fast-talking cute-if-innocuous character every time out. (The possibly exception being the warm-hearted if weakly-executed Sunshine Cleaning, in which Adams shows her nipples.) Not sure how big a role she’ll have, or who exactly Adams will be playing, but it be a good chance for her to show her chops in a slightly different setting.