Director: Martin Scorsese
That subtitle should be a clue.
As well as the sub subtitle that pops up after ancient magic trick footage ‘Conjouring The Rolling Thunder Re-vue’ to tell you this is his Bobness as usual. You think you know whats happening but you don’t really know what it is.
On the face of it this Netflix documentary on Dylan’s 1974 Rolling Thunder Revue Tour following on from, his 1966 tourfilm ‘No Direction Home’ finally delivers us all that great Renaldo & Clara footage without the boring attempt to provide a narrative and purpose. 2019 Dylan appears at the start, seemingly held hostage by Marty to take part and try and explain his motives behind this unique endeavour. ‘I don’t remember anything, It happened so long ago before I was even born’ he growls but with a sheepish grin. Beware the sheep in wolves clothing.
The solid gold here is the live footage – a gentle and pretty straight Mr Tambourine, that lacerating ‘Hard Rains Gonna Fall’, the driving ‘Hurricane’, singing ‘Isis’ with such passion and energy, ‘When I Paint My Masterpiece’, ‘I Shall Be Released’ ‘Simple Twist Of Fate’ is a bar band rumble in rehearsal but pretty straight but magic acoustic solo in the concert film. ‘One More Cup Of Coffee’ is similarly rough with the actual performance absolutely majestic.
And its not just Bob, Patti Smith appears in shy, halting and then intense form in a New York club with Dylan in the audience. Joni Mitchell visits backstage and plays ‘Coyote’ with Dylan watching with a wrapped awe. The revue bit players are represented now and then – Ginsburg, Rambling Jack, Ronnie Hawkins, Scarlett Riviera, Joan Baez with a wonderful scene of them discussing that time when they were together and Dylan genuinely seemingly lost for words when he mentions her getting married, she shoots back “and you got married without telling me”. He recovers with a great line a minute later but its a rare moment that the mask slips.
He would often begin the RTR sets wearing a plastic mask over his face paint “We should have had more masks” he says “You only tell the truth when you’re wearing a mask” and you know he’s putting you on. If you are a Bobhead you may see the tricks and sleight of hand but most people will accept that this was the tour promoter, this guy with an indeterminate European accent shot the footage, that a 19 year old Sharon Stone joined the tour, that a future US politician was snuck into a show by future president Jimmy Carter and that KISS contributed to Dylan’s stage look. Some may see this as needless tomfoolery when we could have more 70s footage but I think it goes along with the freewheeling, pranksterish nature of the original Rolling Thunder Tour.
We get three different plausible explanations of where the name of the tour came from and maybe one or all or none of them are true. On repeat viewings you might choose to skip the lies and stick with the truth but where does one end and the other begin?
Might appeal to people who enjoyed:
Rockumentary if you will