Once again, the big film event this week happened on the small screen, as Martin Scorsese's Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story dropped Wednesday on Netflix and it's an incredible look at the most prolific songwriter of the last century (ever?) in his natural element.
In 2005, Scorsese directed No Direction Home, a 3.5-hour documentary outlining the start of Dylan's career and his shift from acoustic folk icon to electric rock 'n' roll badass. But while that film was pure documentary, Marty has a bit more fun this time around—as the subtitle hints, this is a "Bob Dylan Story" more than a pristinely accurate historical document. Lines are blurred, walls are broken, awesomeness ensues.
Bob Dylan was kinda over stardom in 1975 when he launched a strange tour that played small venues, often with little or no prior notice. The idea was to avoid the giant stadium shows and do something more in line with a gypsy spirit and the vaudevillian revues of old.
So Bob grabbed a bunch of friends (including Joan Baez, Roger McGuinn and Ramblin' Jack Elliott) and hit the road, dragging a camera crew along to capture the fun.
The resulting footage was first assembled in Renaldo and Clara, a Dylan-directed art film that was almost universally loathed by critics of the time.
Four decades later, Scorsese reignites the flame, taking all that's left of Dylan's old footage (much was lost) and combining it with interviews featuring actual players from the tour and actors playing players, to create what's being called a "fever dream" of a film.
"When somebody's wearing a mask, he's going to tell the truth," Dylan says at the start. (And shout out to Sharon Stone for playing along in a most excellent way.)
Whether you buy into the fun and parlour tricks of an unreliable documentary that bends the notes between fact and fiction in search of higher truth or not, the restored concert footage of Dylan in 1975 is an absolute treat.
Bob is notorious for playing with the media, masking himself, and diddling our perceptions of who he is—he co-wrote his first Playboy interview and even his biography Chronicles is far from straightforward.
On this tour, he was in charge of every aspect and everyone, including the camera team, so the footage Scorsese has pieced together here is perhaps the most pure Dylan performance film we will ever see.
On the big screen, the Whistler Village 8 is opening Men in Black: International this week and while there were no pre-screenings available, the talent involved provides reason for optimism. Tessa Thompson (Creed 2, Thor: Ragnarok) and Chris Hemsworth (Thor: Ragnarok) star with F. Gary Gray (Friday, Straight Outta Compton) directing.
The story seems to be hinge on Thompson as the young blood, while everyone tries to find the mole in the Men in Black organization that could destroy the universe. Or something... the Hemsworth/Thompson chemistry should be enough to carry this one into solid mindless popcorn movie terrain but remember: this is the fourth entry in a comic book franchise that was never intended to live this long.
It's summer; if you want really great movies, turn on your TV.
(Which reminds me that both The Handmaid's Tale and Big Little Lies have recently launched new seasons. Will The Handmaid's Tale still hit as hard now that reality is doing its best to catch up to the dystopian shithole that is Gilead?)
Back in the theatres, the other new(ish) flick this week is Late Night, a workplace comedy starring a Bowie-esque Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility, King Lear) as a tyrannical late-night talk show host facing cancellation and Mindy Kaling (Oceans 8, Inside Out) as the only woman on her white, all-male writing team, aka: the only woman who can save the show!
This one looks like a bit of a Devil Wears Prada rip-off homage, but Kaling, who also wrote the script, has a knack for injecting humanity into her humour. It seems a bit formulaic and we could have used more backstory on protagonist Kaling, but there's a lesson in there somewhere (albeit one that probably should have hit harder.)