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What Happened to Kerouac? (DVD Review)

18 Nov, 2012 By: Angelique Flores

Shout! Factory
$19.93 two-DVD set
Not rated.

American novelist and poet Jack Kerouac was the poster boy for the Beat Generation of the 1950s. His writings, most notably On the Road thrust him into an international spotlight and helped inspire the Beat movement.

This documentary paints an intimate portrait of the man, from his birth to traditional French-Canadian parents in Lowell, Mass., to his death at age 47 from internal bleeding as a result of his alcoholism, as told by those closest to him.

Kerouac was a handsome man, a high school football star and a Merchant Marine during WWII. He was a gentle, quiet person and devout Catholic, which contradicted much of the very ethos of the Beat movement.  

He had unorthodox ways of writing his novels and prose, and alienated certain friends on whom he loosely based some of his characters.

His friends, family and fellow Beat writers in these interviews, much of which is archival footage, tell stories about Kerouac, describe his nature, his thinking, his writings and much more.  

In between the interviews are photos, Kerouac reading his own writings and archival footage of the novelist, such as excerpts from when he appeared on “Firing Line” with William F. Buckley Jr.

One of the highlights of the film is a clip of Kerouac reading an excerpt from On the Road on “The Steve Allen Show,” with Allen accompanying him on piano.

The second disc of extras features more than two hours of rare and unseen footage with more of the same people featured in the documentary, going into further depth and detail about Kerouac. Most interesting is footage shot at the Naropa Institute in July 1982 featuring Allen Ginsberg, Abbie Hoffman, William S. Burroughs, Timothy Leary and Paul Krassner discussing the political fallout of the Beat Generation.

For anyone interested in Kerouac or the Beat movement, this set is a goldmine of interesting anecdotes, history and footage from the people who lived it.

About the Author: Angelique Flores

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