Rock Docs And Biopics Fridays: Dylan On Film (One More For Mimi)
It’s Friday, which means it’s time for my semi-regular column here on The Pulmyears Music Blog, where I recommend some movies about music that you can buy or rent on DVD, and watch over the weekend. This week, as regular readers have noted, I lost a good friend from the Toronto music community, Mimi Braidberg the head chef at Mimi’s Restaurant, a frequent morning hangout of certain of us from the music scene in that town (particularly in the 80s and 90s). Mimi was not a musician but as I discussed earlier this week, she loved music. Since one of Mimi’s most cherished artists was the former Robert Zimmerman of Hibbing, MN, and since this Friday column is about movies, I thought I’d make a plate, if you will, of Bob Dylan titles currently available on DVD (films and documentaries that feature Dylan or Dylan music extensively). This one’s for you Mimi. (PM).
Shot in pioneering cinema verite style on tour in the UK in 1965, as Dylan prepared to “go electric”, D.A. Pennebaker documented invents the handheld documentary in this iconic film released in 1967. His stark, high contrast black and white footage of Dylan’s often mundane road life – planes, limousines and hotel rooms – are all here, warts and all, including discussions with his then manager Albert Grossman. Also features appearances by Joan Baez, Donovan, Marianne Faithfull, John Mayall, Ginger Baker, Allen Ginsberg and Alan Price (days after he quit The Animals) . The DVD has commentary with Pennebaker and Bob Neuwirth. What became the “music video” for “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, (a/k/a “the cue card clip”) is included.
Starting before Dylan went electric, Murray Lerner began documenting the Newport Folk Festival, over four years, and came up with this compelling compilation featuring an astounding selection of artists including Dylan, Donovan, Johnny Cash and the Georgia Island Sea Singers, Peter, Paul and Mary, Pete Seeger, Odetta, Judy Collins and, of course, Joan Baez. If you only want the Dylan stuff, Lerner also put together this next compilation…
An 83-minute film, featuring around 20 tunes represented, short over three years in a row at Newport, Rhode Island. “Chimes of Freedom,” a 1963 take of “With God on Our Side” (featuring accompaniment by Joan Baez), “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Maggie’s Farm”, “Like a Rolling Stone” featuring ace noodling from Mike Bloomfield.
Martin Scorsese’s amazing documentary, over 200 minutes in length, follows Dylan from his beginnings to later life, and is probably one of the best studies of Dylan out there. It’s a freewheelin’ travelogue from Minnesota snows to Greenwich Village sugar shacks and the inevitable Newport footage, and that aforementioned 1966 British when the man was on fire. Scorsese had unfettered and unparalleled access to unseen archival footage, rare performances, press interviews, and album sessions and draws on Dylan acolytes and even Bob Dylan himself, who actually, to contradict Pennebaker’s advice, looks back. Usual suspects include Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash. Joan Baez and good old Allen Ginsberg. DVD bonus features includes cool extras.
Organized by George Harrison to raise funds for UNICEF’s relief efforts for victims of war in Bangladesh, this concert movie (shot in New York at Madison Square Garden on August 1st 1971) was one of the first to feature an all-star lineup for world aid. George is joined by his friend Bob Dylan, old bandmate Ringo Starr, along with other close friends Eric Clapton, Leon Russel and Ravi Shankar, the man whose anguished phone call triggered the whole event. and more. Dylan songs include “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.”
Martin Scorsese’s send off for The Band, at least their last performance as this lineup, with many, many special guests, including his Bobness, the man who had played with them early on. Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Paul Butterfield, Neil Young, Ronnie Hawkins and even Neil Diamond also show up.
Dylan portrays a wandering troubadour named Jack Fate, whose ex-manager (John Goodman) bails him out of jail to put on a final concert that could jumpstart his failing career and heal a nation divided. With Jeff Bridges, Penélope Cruz, Jessica Lange , Luke Wilson, Reggie Lee, Laura Harring, Angela Bassett, Christian Slater, Steven Bauer, Mickey Rourke, Giovanni Ribisi, Ed Harris, Chris Penn, Val Kilmer and Cheech Marin
If you can find them…
RENALDO AND CLARA (1978) Largely unavailable, at Bob’s request, film which originally had scenes written by Sam Sheperd and Allen Ginsberg but was later culled down to feature the over 45 minutes of concert footage from the Rolling Thunder Revue tour of 1975.
Bob Dylan co stars with the European singer Fiona and actor Rupert Everett, in this wisely forgotten film written by Joe Eszterhas and Scott Richardson. Strictly for Dylan die-hards.
and a film ABOUT Bob but not starring Bob…
Dylan’s persona is, um, personified by six different actors, including Christian Bale, Richard Gere, the late Heath Ledger and an amazingly androgynous Cate Blanchett, covering Bob’s rise from unknown folksinger to international icon. “The first biography ever approved by the singer-songwriter,” (according to the label copy) and Kris Kristofferson narrates. Other performers include Ben Whishaw, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Marcus Carl Franklin, Bruce Greenwood, Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, David Cross and Kim Roberts.