Bob Dylan’s musical career has taken many unforeseen twists and turns, with the period immediately following Blood on the Tracks remembered as anything but his best. As Dylan laughingly recalls it was so long ago, “I wasn’t even born.” But it is this point in time on which Martin Scorsese and Dylan have focused their collective attention with the Netflix release of The Rolling Thunder Revue.
The seething intense delivery of songs, though, belies anything but a lighthearted Revue as the word might suggest. If not apparent already, the fiery delivery with virtually no melody of “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” reveals the reasoning behind the Nobel Prize he nearly scorned—the power of his lyrics readily apparent. Dylan’s remarkable performances throughout are intensely defiant.
Not a financial success and evocative of a carnival atmosphere with an assemblage of various and varying acts and talents, Dylan performed with his face painted white, adopting the guise of a contrarian clown.
A revealing scene features Joni Mitchell questioning a discussion of male songwriters, followed by a extraordinary composition of great visual imagery—Coyote, arguably the crowning achievement in her storied career—accompanied by Dylan (and others) on acoustic guitars. Allen Ginsburg, too, appears often though was eventually relegated to merely carrying luggage for the performers; the Revue ran out of time for his poetry readings!
Others have criticized the inclusion of the Sharon Stone interview (she never participated) and other incongruities, but Dylan has never been shy to mock and test us. Not without seriously poignant moments, the grainy voice recording of Jimmy Carter recalls the effect Dylan’s early work had on this white landowner in the Deep South, an epiphany that changed his life forever.
A must see for anyone truly interested in Dylan and the vibrant culture of those times.