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Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese.

Bob Dylan

By Joanna Langfield

Don’t even try to get your bearings in this look back at the legendary tour Bob Dylan led across America in 1975. Scorsese, whose dazzling documentaries have looked at creativity in a pretty linear way, goes full Dylan here. As much as the iconic musician loves to play with expected norms, Scorsese not only allows that, but plays along, making us want to go ‘wow’ and ‘huh?’ at the same time.

The revue, we are told, was a response to the political and social unrest penetrating the heart of the US just as it was time to celebrate the Bicentennial. Dylan, along with a merry band of musicians, filmmakers and show people, hits small venues in small-ish towns, bringing something to entertain those who admit they’d probably otherwise be just hanging around, doing nothing. The music, along with Allen Ginsberg’s poetry, is spectacular, live versions of classics that are inspired and, perhaps to the irritation of some fans even today, not mimics of what’s on the album. But, of course, Dylan doesn’t care. Or does he? Discovering white face paint, from Kiss, of all surprises, he slaps the stuff on, insisting people tell the truth when they’re wearing masks.

Ah, that pesky truth thing. What is the truth here? Is Sharon Stone’s very funny story about her time with Bob true? Is a beautiful moment when Joan Baez and Dylan reflect on their love true? Is an almost Fellini-esque scene, where the band plays to a group of cigarette dangling Canasta players true? There’s one bit of business that, to me, gives away the fact that there’s some joke’s on you stuff happening here, which could either lead us to Google or Nirvana. The choice, it seems, is up to us.

 

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