Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
USA, 2019. Grey Water Park Productions, Sikelia Productions. Cinematography by Howard Alk, Paul Goldsmith, Ellen Kuras, David Myers. Produced by Margaret Bodde, Jeff Rosen. Film Editing by Damian Rodriguez, David Tedeschi. National Board of Review Awards 2019.
In 1975, as America was undertaking preparations for the bicentennial celebrations, Bob Dylan changed his mind about quitting touring and got his Rolling Thunder show under way. The tour took him all over the country and into Canada, but at the beginning of this lengthy documentary, he reveals that there’s very little about it that he actually remembers, so director Martin Scorsese does the remembering for him: compiling a series of terrific onstage performances with talking heads interviews that range from real to completely scripted (like Sharon Stone as a fan who had an encounter with him, and Martin von Haselberg as a fictional director named Stefan van Dorp), Scorsese puts together a highly enjoyable look back a high point in the famed musician’s career while throwing in footage of the political climate of the time. Dylan’s form of storytelling through music has always had him veering in and out of fictional representations of himself, it’s what inspired the style with which Todd Haynes made a biopic about him, but this film sells itself as a different kind of documentary and only partially succeeds. There’s a lot of fantastic music footage (a great deal of it taken from Dylan’s earlier film Renaldo and Clara) with some filler in between, the fictionalized elements of the film are done with little humour and play only to the devoted fans like a smug private joke; those fans, however, will be in heaven seeing the performances, which also include a radiant Joan Baez.