Capturing Magnetic Movements. About “Rolling Thunder Revue – The Criterion Collection (Blu-Ray Edition)”

….yes, there is this fascinating Martin Scorsese interview, where the genius director enthusiastically elaborates about the inspiration for making this particular film, “Rolling Thunder Revue – A Bob Dylan Story”, about commedia dell’arte as part of Dylan’s vision for the tour and the filming of it, about the power of the music, the power of “Isis”, about the magic of film and the film, and about the masks and the connection between fiction and truth, about the search for being non-conventional, and there is this really great interview with the editor David Tedeschi, telling us about the exploration of the spirit found in the old reels, about the magic of the performances, about the performance of “Isis” as something he never had seen before, about the 2016 election blending into their work, and then there is this little part about the restoration of the old films, magically searching for the colors and the sounds, and finding them, and there is the interview with the classic music loving journalist, Larry “Ratso” Sloman, looking his part more than ever, once again telling how his own story and the story of Rolling Thunder blends together, how he got his name from Joan, how he finally got the access he needed to cover the tour and write his book, in Dylan’s words “The War and Peace of Rock’n Roll.” Yes, and there is this beautiful booklet with photos and an essay by Diana Spiotta about the film “more honest than a straight documentary” , and the nice “Rolling Thunder Stones” poems by Allen Ginsberg and the looooong Rolling Thunder journal poem from Anne Waldman, one of the “poets-in-residence-witnesses” present when it all happened. It’s all fine, but what really stands out for me in the booklet is, even if I’ve seen them before, the collection of Sam Shephard’s observations and impressionistic pieces of writing inspired by the tour, and by Dylan – like this little piece: “If a mystery is solved, the case is dropped. In this case, in the case of Dylan, the mystery is never solved, so the case keeps on. It keeps coming up again. Over and over the years. Who is this character anyway?” It’s like the words of the late Shepard is perfectly spliced into this post-release of the film, long after it’s Netflix debut 11th of June in 2019, after the 2020 election, after us listening to “Rough And Rowdy Ways”, in the middle of the pandemic, after the attack at Capitol, in the middle of this dark times, connecting the film’s flickering focus on the story of America, the celebration and jubilation, and of the fallen heroes, the betrayal of trust, to this winter of our discontent, all this part of the prelude to the fabulous performances, the whitmanesque power and beauty of it all, the roots-based innovation, the indignation & the hope all rolled into one long fever dream. “Dylan creates a mythic atmosphere out of the land around us. The land we walk on every day and never see until someone shows it to us.” He writes about Dylan working his magic on stage. It’s all good, but then, then it’s the music. Yes, then it’s the bonus tracks, the intensity of the never-before-seen alternative cut of the well-known “Tangled Up In Blue” video and the great inclusion of the Montreal performance of “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You”: “Throw my ticket in the WIIIIIIIIIND!!” And then, most of all, it’s the tear-shaped perfect diamond that sums it all up in one unbelievable performance, up there with the greatest in the film, the one that’s the main reason why you really, really need this edition: This is called Romance In Durango, we do this one a lot, dedicate this to Sam Peckinpah, if he’s out there tonight, Sam, Good Luck! The white-faced singer jumpstarts the drama and the dramatic rendition, his energy pulsates through the band like they’re in his power, as is the mystic smile of Scarlet at the violin, we can close our eyes and see the western movie as we at the same time as we listen to his unique timing and phrasing, but we won’t close our eyes, cause we will absolutely see the acting, the actor in presence creating something, something more than a song, something beautiful and mysterious, then and there, but also in the minutes we’re in today, sweat running down his cheeks as tears, he and Magdalena on the run, we can almost feel the blistering sun where they passes the Aztec ruins, and soon the desert will be gone and we shall be released.

Oh, and then it’s the film.

Johnny Borgan

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