This epic is a mass amalgamation of three separate film-types that is, contrary to popular opinion, coherent and a unified whole. Bob Dylan is shown in concert, often masked, during the ... See full summary »
This epic is a mass amalgamation of three separate film-types that is, contrary to popular opinion, coherent and a unified whole. Bob Dylan is shown in concert, often masked, during the Rolling Thunder Revue. The film also features documentary footage, including Ruben "Hurricane" Carter's struggle against the forces that have imprisoned him. The third element is fictional "role-playing" footage with Bob Dylan in the guise of guitar-strumming Renaldo and his wife Sara as his companion Clara. Ronnie Hawkins takes on the role of Bob Dylan in these sequences. The film includes footage of a visit to the grave of Jack Kerouac, an Allen Ginsberg poetry reading and various friends and acquaintances, namely David Blue (playing pinball by a swimming pool), discussing experiences on the road. Written by
When the film was originally released, its screenings were extremely limited. The film received very many condemning reviews and many theaters refused the screenings. The film was cut from its original four-hour length to a two-hour length, and what was left was mostly concert footage. This version was shown in more theaters than the original director's cut. The original four-hour cut would appear on European television some time later, on Channel 4. See more »
The opening credits end with a minute-long title card reading "A Film by BOB DYLAN" directed after he is credited as writer and director. The closing credits are divided in three sections, separated by wide time gaps, played over a different artist performing. See more »
A sometimes irritating and sometimes profound meditation
At over four hours and consisting of a lot of improvised and apparently self-referential scenes, this could and indeed has irritated many viewers. But if one stays with it and takes it as it comes (Dylan himself has recommended that one watches it doped), the film is an extraordinary meditation on the nature of self, performance, show biz and life. At its heart, the film seems to me to be saying that everything is show business (love, politics, poetry) or perhaps that show business (represented by a cheesy club act) is as valid a life choice as any of the more profound things portrayed. For all his supposedly radical support for Rubin Carter, the film suggests that the boxer is just as much a performer as anyone else. The film contains some moving sequences, not least the wonderful one in which Alan Ginsberg performs Kaddish before a group of oldsters. And not least, the concert footage of Dylan is magnificent - Isis being a stand-out. Which brings me back to the movie's theme: here is a performer whose name is not really Bob Dylan playing a performer who is called Renaldo performing a song about marriage but not marriage to his wife Sara (who plays Clara in the film) but marriage to the ancient Egyptian Goddess Isis - which implies that the singer really is Osiris, God of the underworld. But it's just this kid Robert Zimmerman! What is the real truth? This is the sort of heady trip the film offers. Put up with the irritating self-indulgence of much of this,and the enormous length, and there are great rewards. Re-issue it, Bob!
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