Barry Miles, in his 1999 biography "King of the Beats", claims that "Subterraneans" author Jack Kerouac suffered from an Oedipal complex in which he replaced his father Leo as his mother's faux-"husband". Kerouac always returned to his mother Gabrielle (called "Memère") after his adventures, and wound up living with her permanently after the success of "On The Road" gave him enough money to buy a house. Kerouac's friends, such as William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg were aghast that Jack was bound so tightly by his mother's apron strings, thinking it kept him emotionally retarded. He failed to have a deep, lasting relationship with any of his wives or any other woman (his last wife, Stella, was described by most as being a kind of household slave abused by both Jack and "Memère"). Kerouac defended himself, saying he made a solemn oath to his father Leo on his deathbed to take care of his mother, though it was unlikely he meant that Jack should forgo having a stable marriage of his own and live with "Memère" for the rest of his life. On her part, Memère kept Kerouac infantalized, with his own blessing: She opened his mail and forbade certain of his friends from visiting her home (and Jack's home), such as Ginsburg, who had known him all their adult lives. After reading Jack's mail, Memère would send poisonous letters to Ginsburg and others, including Jack's girlfriends, which Jack defended. Burroughs became so disgusted he terminated his friendship with Kerouac. On his part, Miles points out that Kerouac was well aware of his Oedipal problem. Kerouac named the character modeled after himself in The Subterraneans (1960) "Leo Percepeid." Leo is his father's name, and Percepied translates literally to wounded (or "pierced") foot. Oedipus, as a baby, was ritually wounded on the foot and left to die before being saved, then growing up and slaying his father and bedding his mother. See more »
If this film is hard to get a hold of, it's probably because anyone involved in it has tried to buy up and destroy the prints. Never mind the faithlessness to Kerouac -- this is about as close to the spirit and vision of Kerouac as Howdy Doody is to Shakespeare -- the script provides ample opportunities for the humiliation of actors, opportunities which, unfortunately are exploited to the full. George Peppard is miscast as a soul-searching intellectual writer, but seems to have the soul of a soft, fluffy robot. Roddy MacDowell doesn't speak his lines, but declaims them. The otherwise charming Leslie Caron has the depth of a neurotic paper doll. It's a kind of exploitation film: instant beatnik, just add intelligence. My compliments to anyone who can watch this for five minutes without cringing.
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