Bob Dylan in a war zone
I just saw a preview of "Masked and Anonymous", the new Bob Dylan movie that's going to be released in late July. I didn't know what to expect ... but I am happy to report that it is an amazing movie, a really sharp, funny and cynical satire about the culture of war.
The movie opens with spliced images of battles and armies and bombs, and then we find ourselves in a generic war-torn city that seems to be part Serbia, part Baghdad and part American ghetto. People are dying and starving and locked in jail, the government is scheming behind closed doors and not helping anything, and the city is basically in a state of anarchy as rival factions and warlords compete for primacy.
One of the power-brokers is a sleazy alcoholic concert promoter played by John Goodman, who is trying to pull of a big rock concert to help the suffering victims of the war, though he openly plans to skim all the profits for himself. Working with an array of other self-motivated schemers, including Jessica Lange as a TV executive and Jeff Bridges as an incoherent journalist, he aims to create a major spectacle but can't get any of the big names he wants (Sting, Paul McCartney). The only performer he can book is a second-rate past legend, Jack Fate, played by Bob Dylan. It turns out that this former songwriting genius has been languishing in a nearby jail, and they pull him out to play a few songs in a concert that looks like what would happen if Spinal Tap created "Live Aid".
In some places the movie reminded me of "Casablanca", which also depicted a city in a surreal state of anarchy, a society where each individual must deal with power brokers and petty thieves on all sides just to survive. Dylan floats through the movie with a detached smirk, a powerless everyman who is happy that his minor fame awards him a few days out of jail and up on stage before he inevitably returns.
I'm not sure if I'm describing this movie well, but I'm mainly happy to see that Dylan (who co-wrote the movie) is hitting the world with a viciously opinionated political comedy. It will probably be completely misunderstood by critics. I can already imagine the terrible reviews. So I thought I'd try to get my own word in first -- when this movie opens in a month, go see it before it disappears ...