Today at last, I had a chance to watch Ant McWatt’s second documentary on the life and work of Robert Pirsig, “On the Road with Robert Pirsig“. (The first installment “Arrive Without Travelling” I reviewed when it came out around a year ago, and it was a little difficult to disguise my disappointment, though relatively easy to blame that on the ordeal of watching my own excruciating contribution as well as the distracting psychedelic overlays in a rookie production effort.)
This second chapter is a great improvement over the first. It stands on its own as a documentary of Pirsig’s “project” in writing Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”. There is less “on the road” than the title might suggest, and there is still that theme of 60’s Beatles & Beach Boys psychedelia in the links, but the production and editing is an order of magnitude higher quality than the first effort. The majority of the film is in fact a previously unpublished 2005 interview by Karen Whiteside, ranging from the relaxed and jovial to the intense and emotional, interspersed with contributions from John Sutherland and Ron DiSanto and clips from the Pirsig family archive.
One of several highlights for me personally is seeing Bob recall with much affection the contribution of “Sarah”, the seed crystal that worked its effect on Bob over several months beyond the single remark in the book. Bob should as he does receive the plaudits as the inspired writer of an inspiring rhetorical novel, but his feet are firmly on the ground when it comes to acknowledging the evolution of ideas through the minds of others.
I suspect the first documentary may remain a collectors item for hardcore “MoQ Fans” wishing to remember the first conference on the “Metaphysics of Quality” in Liverpool in 2005. This second On the Road with Robert Pirsig is however an eminently watchable documentary that should be considered a must for anyone with either an existing interest in Pirsig’s highly original Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance or simply looking for a brief introduction – from the horse’s mouth – what all the fuss was about back in 1974.