Scorsese’s entertaining Bob Dylan documentary doesn’t really go very deep but it is an indelible time capsule as it tracks the legendary artiste’s defining 1975 tour across America.
Dir. Martin Scorsese
2019 | USA | Documentary/Music/History | 142 mins | 1.85:1 | English
M18 (Netflix rating) for some coarse language, drug references and partial nudity
Plot: In an alchemic mix of fact and fantasy, Martin Scorsese looks back at Bob Dylan’s 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue tour and a country ripe for reinvention.
Subject Matter: Moderate – Music, Legacy, Popular Culture
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
Martin Scorsese is no stranger to making documentaries about music artistes. From concert films like the underrated The Last Waltz (1978) and Shine a Light (2008) to the likes of George Harrison: Living in the Material World (2011), the director has been one of the foremost screen chroniclers of the legacies of 20th-century popular music.
In his latest, produced for Netflix, Scorsese dives into the mid-‘70s, tracking one of the world’s greatest songwriters of the last half-century—the Nobel Prize-winning Bob Dylan—as he toured across a divided America hoping to heal and inspire people through his music.
In typical Scorsese fashion, Rolling Thunder Revue is entertaining, well-edited and an indelible time capsule. I profess that I don’t know much about Dylan or his songs, but seeing Revue has sparked me to explore more—this is the best thing any film or filmmaker can hope for i.e. to spark or affirm audience interest in the subject matter.
“The nation was so divided, so they embarked on a journey through America.”
Revue doesn’t really go very deep into Dylan’s psyche, nor are the interviews with him and his collaborators over the decades particularly illuminating. But we get fantastic footage of the defining 1975 tour both on stage and behind-the-scenes.
Some of the most inspired parts of Scorsese’s work revolve around Dylan, Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell, plus the segment on how Dylan’s iconic song, “Hurricane”, came to fruition.
Revue ultimately serves as a good introduction to Bob Dylan, whilst also situating his work in the context of political and social problems that America had to confront during those post-Nixon years.