Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Martin Scorsese's "No Direction Home: Bob Dylan" - A Great Documentary

Just because you're a Jew doesn't mean you love Woody Allen. It's not even required that you love Bob Dylan, believe it or not. But then, even for the rules Moses passed on down, I always found it hard to follow along; I'm sorry, but sunny side eggs grow lonely without a few rashers of bacon. Crispy.

So it is that I did not like Bob Dylan as a kid, despite my being a Jew, an art lover, and the son of a father who loved folk music above all else.

Truth told, I think I downright hated Dylan as a kid. Hated him the way kids hate anything that isn't pretty, the way boys only want the blond girl in the class no matter how bitchy or unkind or dumb. Pretty people with pretty voices was all I ever fell for back then. Pop, in other words. To take it that muddy step deeper, I couldn't handle how Jewish Bob Dylan (nee Zimmerman) looked. Ah the self hate of the Jew.

Even into my twenties, when I was starting to get that maybe the kindness of the girl, or her ability to hold a conversation might, alongside the colour of her eyes, length of hair, size of boobs, matter, even then, and with so many musically cleverer friends than I being such Dylan fans, I still refused. It was that voice. It just did nothing for me.

That is until a few years back when I caught "No Direction Home," Martin Scorsese's masterful documentary of Bob Dylan on TV (PBS - where it first aired), and how it made me [sic - thank you Sonia] need to get the accompanying CD.

This two-part, over three hour documentary has as much footage of young Dylan performing (acoustic and electric songs in their entirety) as it does have interviews with Bob himself and all those Greenwich village characters he grew up with. Getting to be there, watching the young boy from Minnesota up on a modest stage, barely twenty, trying still to be Woody Guthrie, I became an audience member as transfixed as how many million fans before me; that aha, I get it, moment. From a documentary.

That's what this movie can do. It can actually make you whoa at the talent of Bob Dylan, not to mention marvel (or sigh, or cry) at the stark difference in the era he came of age in as compared with the cynical now.

"No Direction Home" (which I just rented over the long weekend - and even I don't usually revisit documentaries) is a movie about a legend, about the making of an artist, about a charlatan, a scammer, a true stealing, lying bastard (at times), who is also so clearly a genius, a poet, a musician, a chameleon. It is, at the same time, a meditation on the nature of fame, the love and the hate that can come so close together and so easily tear a person apart. Enough that I wondered how Dylan made his way through the 60s without taking his own life.

At one point in the movie, Dylan says that when he was getting started there was the folk that was commerical, and the folk that was intellectual. He said his music was neither.

So it is with this film. And with so much of the art that grabs hold of me, and a few other million people around the globe.

2 comments:

  1. I saw your new wordpress blog. It is lovely and I hope you'll nurture it. Can't wait to see more.

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  2. A long way off making the big move. Still having to convince myself it's worth it; though am already mostly convinced. But again, as with all tech, it's the time investment that keeps from the upgrade (and I get that it is an upgrade).

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