Bob Dylan Revealed

January 01, 1970

(Highway 61 Entertainment; 110 mins.)




Bob Dylan remains Rock’s greatest enigma, so when director
Joel Gilbert sets out to unmask his subject, the quest turns somewhat Quixotic.
After all, critics and fans have made the same attempt for the better part of
Dylan’s 50-year career, but no one’s yet to establish anything more conclusive
than pure speculation. Dylan’s chameleon-like transformation — from messianic
folkie to unrepentant rocker, from born again Christian to devoted Jew, from
reluctant hero to an ever-diligent road warrior – has been baffling to say the
least, and so when Gilbert attempts to uncover the motivation behind these
sudden shifts, he wisely calls on those closest to Bob to offer their own
insights and testimonials. He assembles an impressive cast – drummer Mickey
Jones, who accompanied Dylan on the famous UK tour where he opted to go
“electric”; producers Al Kasha and Jerry Wexler, who witnessed Dylan at
critical junctures; tour photographer Barry Feinstein, who’s iconic portraits
helped etch Dylan’s indelible image; Ruben “Hurricane” Carter, the imprisoned
boxer whose plight came to light through Dylan’s unshakeable crusade on his
behalf; and musicians Scarlet Rivera, Rob Stoner and Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, all
whom worked closely with Dylan during his crucial ‘70s rebound.


It’s still the man himself, though, who offers the most
tantalizing glimpse of that guarded persona, as suggested in clips of early
interviews (“I’m just an entertainer,” he tells one reporter) as he toys with
his questioners and paints an elusive image beneath the tower of curls and eyes
hidden behind shades. Of course, Dylan’s own autobiographical documentary of a
few years ago, No Direction Home,
still offers the definitive insight into the man’s motivation, but even so, it
lacks the objective observations his associates offer here. Weighed against the
various video releases offered over the years, Bob Dylan Revealed wins over them all, at least in terms of
intimate perspectives.


That said, the archival films and rare home movies provide
the real treasure trove here, particularly those shot by Jones on tour in Hawaii and later in Europe,
as well as the footage shot on stage that’s never been seen before.  Unfortunately, none of Dylan’s actual music
is heard in the film, apparently due to licensing constraints.  Consequently, those enamored with these backstage
glimpses must resign themselves to silent footage and what amounts to pantomime
from the players. Nevertheless, it’s fascinating stuff, well worth the price of
admission simply for these precious glimpses. The excerpts from the Chabad
telethon with Dylan reclaiming his Jewish faith and sporting a yarmulke are
particularly priceless, although a comparison to a “Saturday Night Live” sketch
is all but unavoidable.


Ultimately, it’s the comments from Dylan’s collaborators
that offer the most knowing glimpses into the man behind the myth, although
most reflections seem transitional at best. Feinstein provides the most
revelatory – or ridiculous – assertion, depending on one’s point of view, when
he debunks the tale of Dylan’s famous motorcycle mishap in 1966, suggesting
instead it was a cover for a stint in rehab and an attempt to regroup. Sadly,
there’s no one who can recount the recording of the famous “Basement Tapes,”
nor is there anyone who can illuminate Dylan’s current state of mind as he
continues his quest as an elder musical statesman, now an astonishing 70 years
old. Nevertheless, this is a documentary Dylan devotees should relish, and
while it’s not quite as revelatory as the title suggests, it does peel away
that elusive veneer as much ass anyone might hope for.


Special Features: none

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