Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. —Bob Dylan
Rolling Thunder Revue is Scorsese’s second documentary about the singer/songwriter from Duluth, Minnesota. His first, No Direction Home from 2005, covered Dylan’s early years up to his motorcycle accident in 1966. Less concerned with documentation than myth-making, No Direction Home is partly how Robert Allen Zimmerman became Bob Dylan, and partly how Bob Dylan now remembers Robert Allen Zimmerman.
Rolling Thunder Revue, currently streaming on Netflix, picks up ten years later, in the streets of New York City during America’s Bicentennial. What does this have to do with Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue tour from 1975? Why does Scorsese open Rolling Thunder with The Vanishing Lady, an 1896 silent short from Georges Méliès? And why make this movie now? It’s been 14 years since Scorsese’s first volume; 17 years since the recordings were released.
Those conclusions you’ll have to come to on your own. Rolling Thunder Revue (re-view?) is about the slippery nature of crafting a myth—a story if you will—mid-stream. Some of what is presented here is an outright fabrication, some of it is a simple misdirection, but all of it is believable.
“It is said that the camera cannot lie, but rarely do we allow it to do anything else, since the camera sees what you point at it: the camera sees what you want it to see. The language of the camera is the language of our dreams.” — James Baldwin, The Devil Finds Work, 1976
Idealizing the past isn’t hard, it just takes a little creative licensing.