‘Whatever Happened to Kerouac?’: Essential documentary from 1985

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Strange to think, had he lived, Jack Kerouac would have been 90 this week. It begs the question, what would he have been like? Rabid raving Republican? Drunk demented Democrat? A pairing of the both? A religious nut? Would he have continued writing? Become an éminence grise? Would he still have mattered? Would we have cared?

Ninety. And to think he’s been dead for almost half that time, during which he has gone in-and-out of fashion. And yet, his appeal has somehow always stayed, though arguably that appeal has sometimes been more for what he represented than for his books or writing.

Even so, Kerouac at his best captured a hope, a joyous sense of what life could be - the potential of a moment, of the living of a life, rather than the having of a life-style.

I saw Whatever Happened to Kerouac? on the day it was released, in olde fleapit cinema, southside of Edinburgh. There were around a dozen people in the audience, gathered together in the flickering dark like a secret religious group come to give devotion, as we reverentially watched what is still the best documentary made on the “King of the Beats”. But this film is no hagiography, it captures what was both good and bad about Kerouac, and most of what you need to know, answering some of the questions other bio-pics and documentaries have avoided. The essence of the film is best summed up by William Burroughs when asked, “Whatever happened to Kerouac?” responds, Jack incited:

‘’....a worldwide unprecedented cultural revolution….”

The list of contributors is a who’s who of the Beat Generation: William Burroughs, Carolyn Cassady, Neal Cassady, Ann Charters, Gregory Corso, Robert Creeley, Diane DiPrima, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, John Clellon Holmes, Herbert Huncke, Joyce Johnson, Michael McClure, Edie Kerouac Parker, and Gary Snyder. Directed by Richard Lerner and Lewis MacAdam, this is a must for fans of Kerouac and the Beats.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher

 

 

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