May 30, 2008

Bob Dylan's Documents

If anyone in Los Angeles felt something in the air lately, like the cool factor just went up inexplicably, it's because the "Bob Dylan's American Journey" exhibition has been hanging out at the Skirball. I was lucky enough to be invited to go to a sold-out screening of Eat The Document - an unreleased documentary about Bob Dylan. Rumor has it that Bob Dylan took scissors to the film and cut it himself after being deeply unsatisfied with a previous edit. And after seeing it, I actually believe that. I cannot recommend the film because a) it is unavailable, b) the unmastered sound quality makes it almost incomprehensible, and c) as the host Director Penelope Spheeris herself commented, "you shouldn't watch it alone because it is completely illogical." But, if you are a fan, or just curious, there a moments that make it all worthwhile: the musical performances, jamming with Robbie Robertson on guitar, an impromptu duet with Johnny Cash, and a London cab ride with John Lennon. They say it's an impressionistic film. It's definitely about something, even if no one can really articulate what that is. On the most basic level, it is a film about artists doing their thing.
Seeing the exhibit right before the screening was a perfect way to get ready. There in the Getty Gallery, a map of beatnik New York helped place everything. Folk concert posters and their artwork served as precious relics. Even the letters Bob Dylan wrote to friends and family showed his mastery of writing and made everything come alive. And one of my favorites was the interactive exhibit where you could play an instrument along to a Bob Dylan tune. In this case, the context is culture, an it only heightens the experience of something that isn't just music.

1 comment:

stevehamlin said...

Bob Dylan was actually for me a note of sanity growing up in the 50's and 60's; his icy humor and incisive lyrics had a positive impact on my young life.