FAME Review: Bob Dylan Revealed

Film: Bob Dylan Revealed

By Mark S. Tucker | June 3, 2011

While Revealed isn’t the snazziest documentary on Bob Dylan nor all that artfully laid, the video nonetheless is an engrossing oral record from those who were there: Scarlet Rivera, Mickey Jones, Barry Feinstein, Jerry Wexler, and a cast of many who deliver both glowing praise, gushing idolatry, ribald criticism, and fond reminiscence upon the glory days and beyond, from conversion to conversion to conversion to conversion and back again. Director Joel Gilbert may not be the most accomplished auteur, but, in Revealed, you’re going see and hear a lot of things you won’t get elsewhere.

Jones—drummer for Bob’s backing band the Hawks (don’t worry that you don’t recall the name ’cause no one does, as Jones too often laments) in 1966 as Dylan went from acoustic to his infamous electric personna in a controversial changeover—is an aging fanboy and then some and has been typified percussion-wise as so ham-fisted as to make “Ringo Starr sound as subtle as an Indian tabla player”, so ya kinda have to take some of his words with a shakerful of salt. He nonetheless renders a number of in-the-day observances that you’ll never hear otherwise. Wisely dropped by sit-ins Robbie Robertson & Co. as they became The Band post-Zimmerman, sticking Levon Helm behind the traps, in this film he contributes a goodly amount of 8mm footage he and associates took on that linchpin world showcase.

Weinstein and Wexler dub in some spicy anecdotes and opinings, and there’s a riveting sequence wherein Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, whom Dylan passionately advocated for, sets his case before the viewer cogently, urgently, and righteously, calling to mind the men who admired and befriended him: Muhammed Ali, Malcolm X, and others. Carter had been a lion in the ring, a fierce driven individual, and the zeal and determination that drove him to excel at boxing yet fuels his character and forthrightness, very very evident here. In a later sequence, he reveals that the mega-egotistical Joni Mitchell called him a “jive-ass nigger” to his face after a Dylan prison concert in which she was roundly booed by inmates, somehow managing to blame *him*, who was just another con in the prison’s and prisoners’ eyes. She accused that he could’ve controlled things but didn’t. Little could be further from the truth, but then La Mitchell has her own abundant peccadilloes, and so we smile wryly to hear rather this eye-opening interlude.

Carter’s followed by hand-held camera footage of the notorious Rolling Thunder review, scenes that will make your heart leap up, sets where Dylan is charged and lively amidst a legendary gaggle of great musicians, including Rambling Jack Elliott, Mick Ronson, Mitchell, Roger McGuinn et al. And that, Dylan addicts and everyone else, brings us to the halfway mark, at which point I’m going to leave all y’all hanging, as I never like to spill everything about documentaries, their content being so different from purely sonic presentations. I will, however, disclose that Gilbert does not shy from tackling Dylan’s crises of faith or the figures surrounding him at the time, much later to return to Judaism (and, hey, if he ever makes it to atheism, he’ll finally have right, no?).

Thus, technical criticisms notwithstanding, is this DVD worth the purchase? Oh sweet Lord God Jesus, yes! It is in fact valuable because, by the time you hit just the half-hour milemarker of the 2-hour tableau, you’re into it, fascinated by the wealth of ground-level detail and emotions informing the vets who stood behind Dylan and helped make it all happen. The pairing of Highway 61 Entertainment with distributor MVD was the right matchup as MVD’s a quirky outfit taking the unorthodox handily in stride right alongside the traditional, in fact a muscular ally of the odd, the unusual, and the untried.