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Trouble In Mind ...01/17/2005 10:15:06 am

The NY Daily News hereby sets expectations about Martin Scorsese's upcoming "American Masters" bio on Dylan upside down. This film has been getting mentions in the press for about 2 years. It was always reported like way back here by the BBC that, in the course of making it, Scorsese was conducting an extensive interview with Dylan. It was said he "has been granted full access to the famously media-shy singer."

Now in the Daily News:

Director Martin Scorsese has been working for two years on the upcoming two-part PBS "American Masters" biography of Bob Dylan - and still hasn't had any contact with him.

"I'd not like to deal with the man directly," Scorsese told members of the Television Critics Association over the weekend. "I'd like to find the story and then play it out the way I think it's right. ... It's better I just deal with the material."

It turns out that Dylan's manager Jeff Rosen interviewed Dylan instead, for "10 hours," - footage that may or may not be used in whatever way Scorsese thinks fit.

Now, I know that it's Scorsese's right to make whatever film he wants, and there's something to be said for independence of vision, etc, etc. He's certainly made some very fine films. However, in dealing with Dylan's early career, up to 1966 or so - as this film is said to do - there is no doubt that the politics of the time will enter into the mix. A brief example of Martin Scorsese's politics can be found in this Reuters story from January 2003, quoting him on the Iraq war:

"One hopes that this kind of war can be done diplomatically, with intelligence rather than wiping out a lot of innocent civilians," Scorsese told BBC radio. ...

"There are a lot of Americans who also feel that a lot of this (war talk) is economic," he said in London where he attended the premier of "Gangs." "Part of this has to do with the oil."

Scorsese also appeared to suggest that the U.S. was heavy-handed in the way it approached other cultures.

"I think it really has to come down to respecting how other people live," he said. "There's got to be ways this can be worked out diplomatically, there simply has to be."

(I would allow that we fell a little short in terms of respecting how Uday, Qusay and Saddam lived, and might have been a bit heavy handed with regard to their culture of mass rape, torture and murder.)

It will need to be borne in mind then that despite the fact that Dylan gave Scorsese great freedom with regard to using archived material, this is not in fact an "authorized" film. Scorsese himself is making it quite clear that he is determined to plow his own course. It is a fact that Dylan and Dylan's people have been very flexible in allowing people to use material to give their own perspective on his body of work. Witness one of the first posts on this website with a fairly lengthy list of doings, including the weird Todd Haynes project. With all the books that come out about Bob all the time, when was the last time you heard of him suing over one? He obviously has the attitude that it's better to just let it all go and add up to one big chaotic whole. "All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie," after all.

As written here somewhere before, the Left always tries to reclaim Dylan for themselves after a nasty shock (like his refusal to come out against the Vietnam War, or his Gospel music). So, will Scorsese's movie be the first big step by the Left to reclaim Dylan's work after the rather disappointing political angles that emerged in Chronicles?

Here's betting at least that Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater will not be presented as Dylan's favorite politician.


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