Thursday, June 13, 2019

Rolling Thunder Review: A Bob Dylan Story

Martin Scorsese’s Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story is less a concert film than a poetry reading. In fact, one of the most moving moments occurs when the Nobel Laureate, Dylan, provides a disquisition on the career of Alan Ginsberg, as if to let us know where he (Dylan) is coming from. During the film Ginsberg intones from both Howl and Kaddish and Ginsberg and Dylan even visit the grave of Jack Kerouac in Lowell during the tour. Lurking in back of all this is America, not only the America of Watergate, Nixon and later Jimmy Carter (who also turns out to be a Dylan fan), but of Frost and Whitman and later Anne Waldman who plays a part both way back when and now, as a commentator on the past. Dylan stopped touring in ’66 and the idea to go back on the road didn’t happen until ’75. Rolling Thunder started in Portsmouth, Massachusetts and ended in Montreal, though Pax Americana was the wistful theme. Sam Shepard recollecting his role as the sometime script writer of the documentary that was being made at the time, is dead like Ginsberg (and Suze Rotolo, the girl on the cover of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan album who has nothing to do with the movie). But Sharon Stone, who was discovered by Dylan when she and her mother showed up for a concert, and Joan Baez, who reminisces as an elder statesman while also appearing in the footage, are naturally both alive and kicking. You’ll have to decide which Dylan you like, the grand old man discussing what he claims to have little memory of and making oracular statements like “life isn’t about finding yourself or finding anything, it’s about creating yourself” or the young performer in white face whose image in one scene is juxtaposed with the mime, Baptiste, played by Jean-Louis Barrault in Children of Paradise. Perhaps commenting on his youthful persona Dylan remarks, “when someone's wearing a mask, he's going to tell you the truthl."

N.B.: read Francis Levy's short story, "Pet Buddha"in Vol. 1 Brooklyn. 

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