Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese allows us to revisit some of our nation’s best poets during the height of their prime.
It’s a blast to the past as we travel all the way back in a time machine to 1975. This is when Bob Dylan starts to put together this musical revue. What better way than to celebrate America’s bicentennial birthday than by showcasing some of the best musicians that America has to offer? Or at least the best musicians from among Dylan’s circle.
What results from Martin Scorsese’s visit into the archives isn’t only newly discovered material. It’s a thing of beauty. This is something that’s more than just a concert film. Between current and archival interviews, we get a sense of what it was like to be living and breathing that era’s music. Oh, it’s not only music. Not when you have poet Allen Ginsburg. Anyway, the film certainly captures 1975-76 in all its living glory.
Most of this material is being viewed for the first time on screen. Cinematographers David Myers and Howard Alk shot the original footage in a vérité style. Martin von Haselberg portrays Stefan Van Dorpp, standing in for the late Alk. Whether it’s big or small, the film is sure to be an amazing experience. With the amount of material available, this film could very well be longer! One can only wonder how much material exists on the cutting room floor.
While many of us know director Martin Scorsese for his narrative features, he’s something of a documentary filmmaker. No stranger to Bob Dylan, Scorsese is back with a wonder of a film. One that can tie into the filmmaker’s previous films on Dylan nonetheless. With a run time just shy of 2:30, Dylan performs some of his best hits. “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Hurricane,” “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” and so many more songs are included. All these songs and more are available on a new album.
As I sat down to watch the film last week, I thought about what a time it was to be alive. I’m a child of the 1980s. As such, I didn’t come around to discovering classic rock and folk rock until the 1990s and 2000s. I know good music when I hear it. At least, I like to think I do. Suffice it to say, Bob Dylan is an American treasure. The legendary musician has always had a way with words and this film allows us to see some of that process at work.
Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese is certainly an astonishing achievement in film. It’s also the very reason why we believe in film preservation.
DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese
FEATURING: Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, Sam Shepard, Allen Ginsberg, Roger McGuinn, Ronee Blakley, and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott