Movie Review – Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese

TL;DR – An interesting juxtaposition of the past and present, through music, Bob Dylan, and a very particular look at the 1970s.    

Score – 4 out of 5 stars

Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit scene

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese. Image Credit: Netflix.

Review

Recently I’ve been listing in to a weekly Twitch podcast about music, exploring all the different genres that had no experience with. This has gotten me more interested in exploring the world behind music and Hollywood’s recent biopic spree has helped a bit in this regard. But when you find that a film about Bob Dylan has dropped on Netflix, by Martin Scorsese no less, you stop what you are doing and jump back to the 1970s.

So to set the scene, Rolling Thunder Revue tells the story of Bob Dylan and friends tour across New England and beyond during 1975. This was a year where America was at crossroads, Nixon had just resigned, the Vietnam War debacle was still in everyone’s mind, and economic recession had started in places of the Rust Belt. All in all, it is a time very similar to the one we find ourselves in right now. It is at this moment of flux that Bob decided to get a group of folk/rock pals and do a tour, something he had not done in a while, and we get to see it all.

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese. Image Credit: Netflix.
This is quite a personal look at the tour driven both metaphorically and literally by Bob Dylan. Image Credit: Netflix.

The way the documentary is structured is part exploring the footage recorded during the tour, part retrospective through interviews with people today, and part, just letting the music play and speak for itself. This three-part approach lets us chart a winding course through the 1970s, through the haze of memories, to those moments that are clear as day. Given this tour happened 44 years ago, a lot of time has passed, there are people that are still dear friends, people that no longer speak to each other, and people who are sadly no longer here. This creates a situation where you have people fondly, and not fondly, looking back into the past, but then there is always a sense that you are never quite sure if they are a reliable narrator or not.   

To be honest, I don’t have the familiarity with Bob Dylan than I do with some of those musicians who came a bit later. Sure I know some of his songs, but he just seemed to be this aloof character that got all weird when they gave him a Nobel Prize. So exploring his past was really interesting for me, seeing the way he performed, the sorts of songs he picked, how he organised and didn’t organise the tour, or how even in the 1970s he never gave a straight answer to a question. Indeed, in nothing else, this film was worth it for me because I got to learn the stories behind many of the songs I had heard over the years.  

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese. Image Credit: Netflix.
Having both the present and the past to bring us through the film creates an interesting juxtaposition. Image Credit: Netflix.

While it is a film about Bob Dylan, it is also a film about the tour and the many, many people that were on it. You had poets, performers, musicians, reporters from Rolling Stone, the original documentary crew that is now part of the story, and everything you think could find in a tour at that time. There are at times pretty frank discussions about sex and drugs, and the sort of things that people got up to. I think this is where being able to jump back and forth from the 1970s to now gives the film the momentum it needs to keep pushing forward while also keeping us grounded in the past. One of the people that I found to be really interesting was the original documentary director who is now part of the story. He is constantly reinforcing his role in the proceedings and also has some serious shade to throw around vis-a-vis who is and is not a cockroach.      

In the end, do we recommend Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese? Well that mouthful of a title aside, yes we would. If you are a fan of Bob Dylan, this look back at a pivotal moment in his career would be fascinating to you. If you are a fan of this particular musical style or the history of the time, then I think you will get something out of it. I mean if you just want to sit back and listen to the music, I can think of worse ways to spend a couple of hours.

By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.

Have you watched Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.
 

Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese
Directed by
– Martin Scorsese
Cinematography by – Howard Alk, Paul Goldsmith, Ellen Kuras & David Myers
Edited by – Damian Rodriguez & David Tedeschi
Production/Distribution Companies – Grey Water Park Productions, Sikelia Productions & Netflix
Starring
– Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, Patti Smith, Scarlet Rivera, Joan Baez, Roger McGuinn, Larry ‘Ratso’ Sloman, James Gianopulos, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Sam Shepard, David Mansfield, Ronnie Hawkins, Anne Waldman, Ronee Blakley, Joni Mitchell, Chief Rolling Thunder, Chief Bad Bear, Peter La Farge, Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter, Martin von Haselberg, Michael Murphy, Jacques Levy, Denise Mercedes, Roberta Flack, Mike Porco, David Blue, Arlen Roth, Eric Andersen, Louie Kemp, George Moran, Barry Imhoff, Jack Baran, Jeff Raven, Lizette Kocur, Claudia Levy, Peter Orlovsky, Tom Bell, Mama Maria Frasca, Larry Kegan, Gordon Lightfoot, Walter Yetnikoff, Irwin Segelstein, Don DeVito, Dick Asher, Rosie Smith, Sharon Stone & Jacques Levy
Rating – Australia: M

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