Review by : Robert LynchJust arrived home from yesterdays showing of Masked And Anonymous in Salt
Lake City and would like to say that the movie is great. All of the actors do an excellent job of portraying their individual characters. The live footage of Bob Dylan and his band playing are sure to be priceless treasures, documenting one of the all time greatest live bands. Some stand out performances for me were Val Kilmer, Chris Penn and of Course Bob Dylan. Unlike the other two, Dylan is not an actor but brings confidence to every scene that he is in. This film has been criticized by many of the industry critics and I am sure that is going to continue. Any time you have a cast like the one that has been assembled for this movie it is going to be very popular among critics to tear it apart despite the great performances and underlying themes throughout this movie. I only saw the film once and feel like there is a lot that I missed and am looking forward to seeing it again to pick up on many of the subtleties that exist throughout. Look for this one in theaters hopefully sooner than later and don't be afraid to see it a couple of times. I think that even people who are not necessarily fans of Bob Dylan will come away from this movie thinking that it was very good and thinking about the world they live in as well. When you see it remember that the film was filmed entirely in Downtown L.A. and according to director Larry Charles, "with very little art direction other that the hanging of posters of the president." It is a powerful message about the world that we live in yet choose not to see.
Review by : Steven King
" I have climbed the mountain and brought back the tablets", so started Larry Charles is his talk to the audience before the start of the Friday screening of "Masked and Anonymous" at the Sundance Film Festival starring Bob Dylan and many others..
Charles also said to make the movie was like getting a call from Picasso. He asked how many were Dylan fans which seemed unanimous. He took questions after the show and in the lobby and that's where his comments here come from. As to who wrote it , he said he made a pact with Bob not to discuss it but the rumor that Bob wrote it was a good rumor. Listen and decide for yourself. And we got underway with shyster John Goodman feeling the heat from thugs who want a benefit show to help the refugees or further the revolution. Nothing is concrete and nothing needs to be. It's a movie, i.e.. it's not real. Bob plays the musician Jack Fake, (what a name) who is going to be the only show at the show.. The film has the feel of something between" Moulin Rogue" and "Mad Max", a gritty grubby shabby affair after or during a revolution for a make believe country whose flag shows it to be all of North America except Greenland. No glamour of mansions on the hill that Hollywood adores so much but more old trailer and multi- painted small places with mismatched furniture. Charles called it vaudevillian flamboyance. Even the Presidential Mansion could use a lot of work. First song, "My Back Pages" in
Spanish, performed not by Bob but the group in the credits that I didn't get the name of but will someday. All the songs are Dylan's, the covers were chosen by Charles from a very tall stack (300,000) made available from the Dylan camp. Garcia's cover stuck out in my mind. And Bob, who Charles called idiosyncratic, chose and re chose the ones he performed in the movie along with his current touring crew. They're fun to watch. I won't go into the story much, that's the fun of seeing the show. Some have read the script but I hadn't.
The acting was great, wonderful, superb. Very human. Bob did his sly shy wit through out. Who or what is masked and anonymous? Humans, though children and one other group are excluded. Animals don't know they're going to die and they just do their thing. Humans know they're going to die so they are scared and the "fur trapping.. seal clubbing.. blow drying man is trespassing here on this earth". The movie is like a 2 hours Dylan song that goes from "here and now to the there and then". It has social comment. "the pilgrims didn't need a passport". "Violence is the only tool in the box for terrorist and you can't build a house with one tool". There's humor everywhere, and betrayal, death, faith, faithful love and unfaithful love. The knockout punch with a bird cage with bird in it. Murder by guitar. Penelope Cruz's habitual genuflecting. And her on the couch with the Pope and Gandhi is hysterical. Reality and fantasy. All the squalor of street
life in the movie was shot in LA with no props just Charles riding around with a handheld.. Here in the old U.S. of A. The fantasy of Al Jolson visiting Jack to tell him what happened to him. The beauty of a small child singing "Blowin' in the Wind". Autobiographical. Goodman confronts Jack with the fact that Hendrix rocked Woodstock and where was he? " He asks "Would he reach out to a drowning man?"! Or Jack says "my dreams pick up reality". The subtleties are unending
like a Marx's Brother's movie. Charles says it's layered, as is much of Dylan's work. Layered cinematography. Jack has to play "Eve of Destruction". "To get a big music star on TV they either have to have a cause or get an award." Denial and betrayal. Just like everyday life. Life and life only. Charles called it an underground cartoon like a treasure map, follow the map and you get to the treasure. The treasure, in the end, is as ambiguous as the beginning. Cycles. It ends saying everything in life has a price and Bob looks right into the camera, then looks away and then looks back. His
expression? Well to each his own interruption, it's all unknown.. Who cares about Egbert. His vision is fogged from years of looking in the wrong place. Bob points to our passionate side, to the heart. He doesn't tell you how to be, he's not a preacher. Or the leader. He just lays it in your lap. Good and evil, right or wrong, high or low, in or out. You choose and choose it well. If you thought it would be like "Rambo" you won't like it. If you thought it might be like "Senor" the movie you'll be pleased. None of the five people I saw it with had anything but praise for it. It's a moving painting. Enjoy it. I call it a capital compilation to capture the character of life. Two thumbs
up and a couple of toes.
Review by : Sam Heaton
I just got back home to the cold, rainy Sunshine Coast. Arlo let me crash at his place last night as it was around 3 when we got to Vancouver from Seattle after the movie I think.
This was my first time meeting any other poolers, and it was a blast. I met Arthur, Eben, Clara, 4thstreet and deej and they're all really great nice people.
None of us mentioned anything about seeing the movie before we left because we we had no idea how much of a private excluisive secretive thing it was.
It turns out that the rest of the seats were all given out as a radio promotion, not really to Bob fans especially, just anyone who wanted free stuff. The only other real Bob fans I noticed were a father and son (I think) behind us arguing about the '84 tour versus the '87 tour.
We saw the movie at the Landmark Harvard Exit, an old, interesting little theatre that studios use to test upcoming films like M&A. It also had a urinal shaped like a bathtub that I now regret not photographing.
I really don't know where to start with the film itself. There are so many little details, references, and jokes that are often too hard to catch much of that I simply cannot wait for the DVD. Masked and Anonymous is so much better than I expected it to be that I cannot help but love it.
It doesn't fit into any one genre. It's a comedy, a drama and a sci fi most of all, I'd say. The sci fi elements are really quite interesting and I'll be looking more into them on DVD.
When Jack Fate leaves the prison, he is asked where he's going. He responds with "Roswell"
Jessica Lange's character raves about stacks of dead aliens. Jeff Bridges' character "Tom Friend" has a strange electronic device on his ankle until his boss, played by the late Bruce Dern gives him the key to unlock it when he sends him on his assignment. I'm sure there are more sci fi elements, and maybe I'd remember them if I had watched the movie a few times, but sadly, once was all we got.
Larry Charles obviously spent a long time choosing Dylan cover songs to put in the music, because his choices are very appropriate and probably some of the best Dylan covers I've ever heard. The only thing better than the choices of cover songs and older Dylan songs put in the movie is the choice of songs that Jack and the boys recorded for the movie.
As you all probably know by now, the electric songs played are all regulars from recent tour shows. Down in the Flood, Drifter's Escape, Watching the River Flow (for a few seconds) and the amazing Cold Irons bound were all used at extremely appropriate times, especially Cold Irons Bound.
The Dylan song most embodies the feeling of utter chaos is used near the end of the movie when everything goes straight to hell and chaos breaks out.
The acoustic songs work well too, although "Dixie" it a little tough to swallow.
Listening to the M&A audio from sundance now, I think that John Goodman's speech before the "dark princes" enter in the beginning was either cut or very different and the "Lady in red" scene is gone.
Apart from the confused faces at the end of the movie ("I don't think I understand what just happened here.") the non Bob-freak audience seemed to enjoy it almost half as much as us poolers did. I think M&A is a very funny movie, much funnier in action than in the screenplay, too. There were several big laugh moments, probably the biggest being the man eating chicken (HAR HAR HAR).
The acting was excellent from everyone. I second Michael (I think)'s comment about Dylan's calm, cool acting as a contrast to almost everyone else's over-the-top performances. I think we were all afraid that Bob's monolouges and lines would come out as really cheesy but they worked very very well.
The friendship between Fate and Luke Wilson's character Bobby Cubid came off as strange to some people, because Fate hardly says a word to Bobby in the whole movie but I think I understand it completely. They obviously have a history, and a silent understanding. Cupid is obviously dedicated to "protecting" Fate and of course eventually kills for him. The friendship is acted spectacularly by both of them.
The scene in which Cupid kills scumbag reporter Tom Friend (whose ridiculous attacks of accusing questions echo those of bad interviewers through Bob's history) to save Fate's life when Friend has a gun pointed at him is extremely powerful.
I love this movie and I cannot wait to see it again. There's much more I could say and probably will say later, but I think this post is big enough for now. See this movie whenever you can.
Review by : SlithyJust got to a computer after last night's M&A preview in Chicago.
Man, this is tough. There is so much going on in this film and so much that is of interest to Dylan fans, I don't know were to start. I'll just start by saying M&A was much better than I was expecting. It is thought provoking, funny (everyone was laughing at all the right times) and a lot of fun. Much like the best of Dylan's musical work. I think I'll just touch on some of the things I think people want to hear about.
The theater in Pipers Alley was less than 1/4 full when the film started. Actually, anyone who really wanted to get in could have slipped in pretty easily. In fact, two women sat down next to me for about one minute before they realized they had wandered into the wrong theater! No, this is not Finding Nemo.
I got the feeling that most of the people there didn't know too much about the film. There was a lot of chatting about who is in it and what it's about.
Anyway, during the film everyone seemed to be having a good time and laughing at all the jokes. The funniest audience-related moment was when Jack Fate was introduced--there was a very audible gasp when he emerged from the darkness. Maybe it was the shock of seeing Dylan on the big screen, but I'll bet it was because he looked like a wild animal. People were giggling through almost all the performances (you gotta admit, the mugging can be pretty funny).
When the film ended, most of the people stuck around to listen to the beautiful version of Blowin' in the Wind that closes the film. Some of the people around my age (22) clapped when the credits rolled, the rest just sort of walked out with bewildered looks on their faces.
When I left, there were two young women discussing the film. One said she thought it was thought-provoking; the other said it was awful. She singled out the monologues and the sub plot about his father as parts that she especially hated.
Music: First of all, I thought the Dylan covers fit perfectly with the visuals. The use of multiple languages adds to the ambiguity of the imaginary country M&A takes place in. I especially liked the way the Japanese version of My Back Pages segues into the Ramones' version just as images of natural and economic disaster turn into images of rioting. The other great (non performance) music moment was when Blind Willie McTell plays over Dylan's first trip through the twisted capital city. I will never listen to that song again without remembering this amazing scene.
As for the performances, I thought it was a mixed bag. Down in The Flood, I'll Remember You and Cold Irons Bound are done better in concert almost every night. Dixie, however, was amazing, much better sounding than the bootleg copies we have.
Direction: The film looks great. There are times when it is obvious they had a very limited budget, but it's never a big problem. The editing was interesting, but a little frustrating. It seemed like the director never got comfortable with one style. At times, there were rough cuts during the dialogue that reminded me of Woody Allen's Deconstructing Harry. Overall, it seemed like the work of a talented, yet inexperienced, director.
One other thing about the editing: Does anyone else who has seen this new version think some scenes seem out of place, like they cut things out without regard for the film as a whole? One example in particular is during the performance of Drifter's escape. Isn't Sweetheart talking about Trying to get to Heaven?
Acting: Wow, too many great performances to mention, so I'll get to the one everyone wants to hear about--Slater. He was great; I thought he added some great comic relief...just kidding.
Bob seemed a little nervous at times, and delivered about a third of his lines a little stiffly, but I thought his performance was far from embarrassing. I'll talk about Bob later, I'm running out of time here at the library...
Review by : Christopher DunnSaw M&A last night (24 June) in Chicago and have these thoughts:
Strange, interesting, funny film. It struck me as a movie version of the mline from Summer Days, 'The girls all say, "You're a worn out star."' I wasn't expecting it to be so self-deprecating. Dylan played the straight man to the other characters. And, as in real life, would never answer the question as to who he (jack fate) is, what makes him tick.
The story line (both explicit and implied) dealt to some extent with how little we actually can control our fate/Fate. There was more than a touch of nihilism, but it was done with humor (at times, black). You is who you is. You can't escape that, you can't escape the man. But you can come to understand and you can sing. To change the words and meaning a little, "He's got everything he needs, he's an artist..." And he doesn't look back.
Some will say that the film is really scenes in search of a Dylan song. Others will see it as a 100 minute TV show, as there is no context for the characters. Others will see it as a visual representation of all that is ambiguous about Dylan, his life, his work. It's all of those, and more.
The "more" is this nihilistic aspect. As I was watching M&A, I kept thinking of some Russian novels that expose the control of the state over the citizenry. Bulgakov's "The Master and Margarita" and Viktor Pelevin's recent "Life of Insects" come to mind. Both novels are grim, humorous, fantastic, and absurd. That is their strength and that is the strength of M&A.
Upon further reflection, M&A is reminding me of Verlaine (in addition to Bulgakov and Pelevin). Verlaine painted impressions in his poetry by creating imprecision by precise means. Like Verlaine's "Setting Suns" (part of his Poemes saturniens), M&A is a model of movement within stillness. They both unfold without apparently going anywhere. They represent a scene and an emotion. Language is far removed from the usual conventions of narrative and the intellectual. Verlaine and Dylan (not just in M&A) are masters of the art of suggestion
Review by : Audry RoseLast week I had the pleasure of attending an advance screening of Masked & Anonymous along with some other Dylan Poolers.
I loved the film. If you know Dylan like dylanpoolers do, there are some really hilarious parts that would just go right over the heads of casual Dylan fans. Our group was laughing the hardest and the most. But the thing as a whole is not a comedy. There is some serious stuff in there. But Bob's sense of humour and his ability to laugh at himself really comes through. I need to see it again. A lot of stuff goes by really fast. It's not a great great movie. But it's not bad like some of the critics from Sundance claimed. There's lots to love about it.
Filming parts of it in present day LA without any sets is brilliant and very meaningful. It is hard not to be touched by that.
I knew little about the film ahead of time and there were some really surprising parts for me. If you have not read the script already, I wouldn't. It was great to just have it surprise me. It was much better than I expected. My expectations were kind of low though. I've seen Bob act. But he doesn't really act in this film. Not really. He just kind of wanders around and makes short comments about things the other characters are saying. I heard criticism of that but I think it was intentional and I think it worked OK. He's not much of an actor so why would he give himself a part that required a lot of acting? There wasn't much characterization in the script but the actors did an outstanding job of making characters out of what they had to work with. It's all Bob talking so it's hard for the characters to NOT be Bob. They are all Bob. My first clue to this was when the Jeff Bridges character first appeared wearing a hooded sweatshirt with the hood pulled up over his head and sunglasses. Too funny.
I think the film is a whole bunch of songs all jumbled together. Each character is a song or part of a song. Dylan is after all, a song-writer. I agree with whoever said it's a moving painting--just like many of Bob's songs.
My advice for the critics who hated the film: if you don't understand why Johnny's in the basement mixin' up the medicine, why the man in the coon-skin cap wants 11 dollar bills and you only got 10 or why the pump don't work 'cause the vandals took the handles OR if you have to spend a lot of time trying to figure out what Bob meant by these things instead of figuring out what these things mean to you, then you should definitely skip this film. You will not get it and you should refrain from criticizing what you can't understand.
I need to see the film again.
Review by : Lynne Robinson
Got to see Masked and Anonymous last night in Denver . It showed to a very small crowd (a benefit for the Public Library in cahoots w/a local FM station,) at a fabulous old theatre, the Mayan, probably built during the forties...Pueblo Deco meets Mexican Baroque, complete w/balcony and red velvet curtain . Surreal enough for my expectations. I found great seats while my daughter loaded up on popcorn etc. I looked around - the crowd was as diverse as you can possibly imagine - perhaps five or six had even heard of Bob; this was the movie of the week and they were here. From the opening scene of this film, you know you are in for a ride - through Bob's head, seeing a world on the brink of disaster, through Bob's eyes.
Somewhere in America , streets look like India - homeless souls recline on their cardboard boxes like saddhus. There is something inexplicably holy about these marginalized, disenfranchised ones who have set up gypsy camps here and there in this decayed city...think Cuba - complete corruption. Jack's in jail, his father (El Presidente) is on the blink, a new dictator has emerged in a twisted take on the Prince and the Pauper meets Chauncy Gardener. Thugs have taken over the media and Jack's manager has teamed up
with Nina Veronica (brilliantly played by Jessica Lange) to do a benefit concert to aid the 'rebel' forces. At the end of the day, when all the 'big rock stars' have refused to participate in this dubious event, these two, the overblown manager Uncle Tom Grossman, and the Blonde Bombshell (this one's all biz, down to her blood red lips and dare I say...claws) are forced to bail Jack outa jail, and trot him out like an old carnival horse to perform at the circus. This movie by the way is teaming w/Carney references.
This is last chance Texaco, and everyone is trying to fill up quick! Bobby Cupid's (Luke Wilson) appearance suggests a younger, less jaded Jack with shades of Neuwirth added. He comes onto the scene complete w/Blind Lemon's guitar...Jack meanwhile has been on quite a trip to get to where he has to be, meeting up w/various characters, including a rebel defector who is in crisis after realizing the 'government' supports the rebels as well. The plot thickens as the narrator allows us a glimpse into his past - his encounter w/the animal wrangler (Val Kilmer) is hysterically funny...a deranged survivalist, who has gone completely over the edge, declaring cracks in the earth more beautiful than anything man has made, while our man, nods sagely, pokerfaced. This movie is visually rich and multi-layered. I caught only glimpses of cleverly hidden stuff...a bulletin board at the TV Company, had words like Jokerman and Apocrypha, its all right ma...but the camera moved too fast for my eye to catch more. Tom Friend (as in you got a lotta nerve:) played by Bridges arrives dressed like Bob on his day off. Hoody, shades, leather jacket and a fidgety, distracted attitude. He's completely uninterested in this 'project' until he's informed the only performer is Fate. The scene w/Friend confronting Jack about Woodstock and Jimi Hendrix is surreal, with Friend becoming every journalist that has ever had the audacity to ask Bob to explain himself...and the look Fate gives him, rolling his eyes, says it all! Friend's girlfriend, Pagan, is at home praying to Jesus and everyone one else by the light of many candles. Penelope Cruz is perfect as the Dark Madonna of Bob's personal lexicon. Her hysteria verges on the ecstatic as she reluctantly returns to her lover's world, nervously twisting a lock of her hair like a Hasid davening, her sensitivity is palpable. Her kind of love, beyond sacrifice. Her devotion, absolute. She is the angel of mercy, the St Theresa of the revolution. As Jack flashes back on his past and his relationship with his parents, I was reminded again of Grossman and his wife Sally.
His father's dusky mistress (Angela Basset) emerges as the only female character that seems to be grounded and secure in her womanhood a note...on Pagan's hand, a tattoo like a holocaust survivor...the numbers 333. The Triple Goddess and Apollo's nine muses...There is an implication here of Jack having had an affair with his father's mistress that might have led to his fall from grace, causing the switcheroo with the 'groundskeeper's son' played by Mickey Rourke. (There is also mention of a twin but it is all rather vague as to...his fate) One scene is memorable for its allusion to Fate's apparently sexless existence. The clerk at a seedy hotel that once housed the likes of Richard Nixon offers Jack an array of women to choose from. "I just wanna sleep." Jack deadpans...A bevy of voluptuous women color the movie, showing temptation to be everywhere, but Jack has either had enough and/or is avoiding like the plague. Women are Fate's Achilles heel as the ending of this film reveals... All of these characters converge in this apocalyptic circus of Jack's mind - it is the road to death, where one is said to see all the events of one's life - it is the journey 'cross the Styx - and lest I give too much away, I'll stop here, with this. In the end, as Jack is driven back to prison, the camera close up on that extraordinary face, those eyes that he has used here, in this film, to perfection, stare right at us, his audience, and for a brief moment, invite us in, to see what he sees as he looks back with exquisite compassion; Buddha in the back seat...and I'm flashing on Don't Look Back, in the car at the end.
This is the other side of Bob's story, disguised, masked and anonymous - a ride through the perils of power. The corruption, the greed and the prison of fame, and the freedom, the only freedom there is - of the mind and the soul. And does this movie have a message you may wonder. Well it clearly shows there's no place left to look, but up. oh, Bob plays the part of pokerfaced Bob better than any could, but I gotta say, those other actors played all the other parts of him brilliantly, because they are all aspects of the man himself, and this is his story, the people that he remembers, the women he's loved. All of it seen as if through a mirror, a carnival mirror, that bends and distorts the images...