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 »
The film consists of live footage of Bob Dylan performing gospel music during a 1980 tour. The film also features actor Michael Shannon in the part of evangelical preacher giving sermons that appear between songs throughout the film.
Mary Elizabeth Bridges,
I consider myself a fan of Bob Dylan within moderation, and I thoroughly enjoyed the previous documentary about his earlier European tour, DON'T LOOK BACK. I'd always heard (don't know if it's true or not) that Dylan himself did not want EAT THE DOCUMENT released, and after finally getting to suffer through the entire thing, it's not hard for me to understand why. Smart move there Zimmy - much smarter than anything you put across in the film itself. There is practically no point to watching this film, as it's a mind-melting mishmash of sounds and images that never come together to allow the viewer to get a grip on them. We want to hear what Dylan is saying in his arrogant press conferences, and we'd like to be able to enjoy his song lyrics. But the inane editing of this mess (supposedly by Bob Dylan himself - no wonder -) leaves you completely disillusioned and unsatisfied. It's a distorted trip into the scattered brain of a drugged out poet/rock star, and although some try to rationalize that this in itself is some sort of achievement, it's a journey I could easily have done without.
The focal point of the film, as I've tried to surmise through all the dense fog, is Bob's disastrous 1966 tour of Europe, the one where he "went electric" and offended all the folk purists. In between all the haze we get to see a few angry faces in the crowds calling Dylan a "traitor", and those are only a few of the more coherent snippets scattered amongst all the debris. Songs are continually cut off midway, and even as early as now it seems Zimmy had begun altering the arrangement of some of them, thus making them too unlike their album counterparts to really get into.
Dylan makes a fool of himself throughout this film, and it's a good picture of how fame, money and a little power can go to someone's head and be wasted on them. Nowhere is this more in evidence than during a 15 minute "outtake" that's sometimes tagged onto copies of EAT THE DOCUMENT... it features two great legends, Dylan and then-Beatle John Lennon, riding in the back of a limousine. A terrific opportunity, right? Wrong. Because Mr. Dylan seems more interested in getting smashed out of his skull on something or other while Lennon - no stranger to drugs himself though much more composed on this occasion - comes across as cool, while his co-passenger Mr. Dylan is slurring his words, making little sense, and gradually becoming so ill to the point of needing to vomit into the camera. Through all of this, John Lennon attempts a little humor to snap Dylan out of it, but it's no use; Bob is just too zoned out to focus. A real shame. Here are two great legends together for the camera, but Dylan doesn't seem to be interested in putting this historic meeting to good use. THIS is drugs, kids -- this is your brain on drugs. This nauseated "limo ride" is not actually part of the "finished" film (it only includes several seconds of it), and that's too bad, as it's certainly the most fascinating thing shot, though for all the wrong reasons. * out of ****
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