Behind the Beat

In 1961, Jack Kerouac was about to hit a wall. His 1957 book On the Road had made him a cultural icon of the Beat movement; but his popularity had gotten out of hand, and he continued to sink deeper into alcoholism.

Finally, when he had had enough of the New York scene, he set out across America yet again, ending up at a secluded cabin getaway along the Pacific coast in California. The trip nearly cost him his life, but it also produced one of his greatest works, Big Sur.

Curt Worden’s film One Fast Move or I’m Gone: Kerouac’s Big Sur attempts to understand Kerouac by contemplating his book. As well, the film works with the story and riffs off of it with the hope of creating something new in the process.

We watch as Worden – through a series of interviews from many of Kerouac’s contemporaries, as well as later artists who have been influenced by him (from Tom Waits to Ben Gibbard) – attempts to deconstruct the identity of Kerouac in order to gain some understanding.

Worden’s camera work, knack for tastefully incorporating archival footage and acute sense of pacing make for an enjoyable and contemplative piece.

However, it is the masterfully written prose of Kerouac himself, read periodically throughout, which provide the most beautifully poetic moments of this highly lyrical film.

Published in Volume 64, Number 26 of The Uniter (May 27, 2010)

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