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Though it is titled "Exposed" this brief making-of documentary about
the Larry Charles/Bob Dylan film offers little not exposed in the
It's mainly interviews with cast members, who either pay slavish praise to the director and the legendary star/singer, or make wisecracks (typically Val Kilmer cannot play it straight). John Goodman, who actually dominates the feature film, is also quite loquacious and almost perceptive in the interviews, but the likes of Jessica Lange (rightly comparing the material to the plays of her fave, Sam Shepard) and hangers-on Christian Slater and the late Chris Penn, contribute trivia to what is already hardly a footnote. Jeff Bridges and Penelope Cruz, both pre-Oscar certification, seem to have drunk the Kool Aid.
It is dismaying that one has to refer to IMDb, no less, to find out that the "fabulous script" everyone is talking about is not the work of two unknown scribes but rather the effort of Charles & Dylan, hiding inevitably behind pseudonyms. Cast members talk about the rhythms of the dialog, but for the uninitiated (and non-crony) viewer, it is the worst sort of infra dig, namedropping stream of consciousness blather I've seen since the heyday of Fredric Hobbs (see "Alabama's Ghost" if you're interested). Way back when I enjoyed watching Dylan's pet projects like "Renaldo and Clara", but this sort of indulgence went out with the hippie era and is painful to watch. Sure, a cast member can make fun of it by saying that Dylan's Jack Fate character is "based on Donovan", but overall, I'm surprised they didn't cast Mr. Leitch in this one -it could have made the lower half of a double bill with his rather fine movie "Pied Piper" by Jacques Demy.
An arm's length documentary (not mockumentary) about how train wrecks like "Masked and Anonymous" occur might be of interest to film historians. It is obvious that the emperor's new clothes syndrome was at work here, and it doesn't hurt to get a British producer anxious to make a film in America (Nigel Sinclair takes the rap) on the hook. Clearly from his TV work plus "Borat" Larry Charles is taken seriously in the film industry, but his level of facetiousness encapsules what I abhor most about the decadent era of cinema we are living through today.
This is a great movie. Especially fascinating is the use of Dylan songs as background, while the tunes of his character Jack Fate are apparently seen as the singer's own material. Dylan's songs, used throughout the film, are done by others, and seem almost a textural addition to his character (who seems nonplussed by both his filmic notoriety and his own real-life fame). Dylan mumbles his way through this film in true subterranean style, and Goodman, Bridges, Cruz and other cameo luminaries waltz through this messaged fable like clients waiting for "the" call from their agents. Dylan is a master of subtlety and brow- arching wisdom, and while it is difficult to determines how much of this is acting and how much simply Dylan's own ethereal detachment, the film remains a strong statement and a piece of musical history- if only for the fact that Bob Dylan is the star! Masked and Anonymous is a must for any indie film buff, and a treat for the serious Dylan fan. John Stoneking/Topanga, California
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