Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese(Netflix)
Rating: * ½ (one and a stars)
Here is a question I never thought would arise for a film by the great Martin Scorcese. Why was this documentary on a well-known concert tour by the legendary Bob Dylan, made? For the love of Dylan ? Or for the love of Dylan’s massive fan-following?
At the risk of sounding blasphemous I must confess I’ve never understood what Bob Dylan sings. Except for the track ‘Blowing In The Wind’(a prominent part of this week’s Hindi release Article 15) I am yet to decode what ‘Upon four-legged forest clouds…The cowboy angel rides’ and ‘He just smoked my eyelids…And punched my cigarette’ means. Those who have the answer, please share.
The Scorcese documentary has made Dylan even more inaccessible for me. It conjures up a collage of frames and images shot during the 1975 Dylan concerts,when something monstrously relevant was said to be happening to American politics(Nixon was the cause of friction) and juxtaposes them with fictional material that probably—mind you, PROBABLY—reflects what went on inside that Nobel prize-winning mind while America churned .
The Dylan we see in this film is inscrutable and obstinate, unyielding and opinionated. The images of Dylan on stage and Dylan backstage don’t speak to me at all. They tell me nothing about his personality.
There is a lengthy conversation between Dylan and the love of his life Joan Baez. I listened to it twice in the hope of a clue to the great genius’ mind.But hell, this genius even speaks his normal conversations like the lyrics of a song. Which means, essentially we are clueless.The answer,my friend, may be blowing in the wind. But it ain’t reaching my mind. Sorry.
Besides the sheer randomness of the material(I mean, does anyone care what happened during a series of Dylan concerts in 1975?) the other big obstacle to enjoying this piece of enigmatic inanity is the sheer incoherence of the opinions expressed. The show managers and co-musicians who speak about Dylan express awe. But there is no real love in that tone of hero-worship.
Is Dylan really as great an artiste as he’s made out to be? This documentary offers no clues.I came away as confused by the purpose of this film, as I am by Dylan’s lyrics. I wouldn’t recommend it to even diehard Dylan devotees. As for the non-believers, try the new Elton John bio-pic Rocketman instead. He is more fun.And less joyless.