Reviewed by Christy Moore
BBC – September 27th 2005
4.am. and a sleepless night with a whirring head, I’m putting it down to Dylan. What a beautiful film Scorcese has made for us. The later and shorter film on BBC4 was excellent too with Woody Guthrie footage previously unseen and deeply moving. The Lenny Bruce section was heartbreaking, the fucking bastards murdered him in Britain and America, again the footage was stunning and the image of Lenny being escorted up the steps into a BEA plane upon his deportation will be unforgettable. The main film gave me a new and welcome insight into Dylan. While I’m no Dylanologist I have been very aware of him for 40 years, I have seen him maybe 6 times, sung 3 or 6 of his songs and there are various vinyl, cassettes and cds scattered throughout the years.
I thought Chronicles Vol.1. was a great read and now we get this Masterpiece of a film. The Cinematography and editing were superb and the man himself seemed totally engaged in the process. I felt it was the first time I had ever seen him real, something I never thought I’d see. (I was always more than happy to watch him acting so this was an unexpected and welcome bonus). Dave Van Ronk shone with honesty and humour and Liam Clancy’s final paragraph summed it up when he said of Dylan’s songs ” Bobby was saying things that we would all love to have said”. He’s still doing it. Even the shysters shone here. Dylan brings out the best in everybody. Even those only interested in pounds of flesh displayed uncharacteristic humanity when reminiscing. Of course I realise I’ve only seen half the bloody film and tonight will probably be more of the same! We watched The Last Waltz as a warmer-upper for this (BBC again) and it proved to be an excellent trailer. The Band was simply brilliant on Dylan’s first electric gigs, what a way to come out. (I was retrospectively embarrassed to realise that, had I been there, I’d have been one of those cloth-eared, wanker- knockers).
What struck me repeatedly was how hard he must have worked to achieve what he was doing in those early days. His focus and determination matched by his infatuation with and his love for songs. Of course many of us had those qualities but Dylan had the extra ingredient that carried him the final furlong into that field he alone can occupy. Many of us gaze through the bushes wondering how the fuck did he think of saying that? Then Joan Baez tells us that he knew 40 years ago that we would be asking these questions, nor did he understand the words nor have the answers himself. Forever the conundrum, always the ambivalence but it matters not for both sides of the coin are honest and truthful. I always knew he had a marvellous sense of humour but it was so beautiful to see him smile last night. Fuck it, I don’t care that it was on a small screen in the corner of the living room, that it was far removed from my life, that I am sounding off like an anorak, who gives a shit, it was pure magic.