Rolling Thunder Revue: Worshipping Dylan the Rock-Star Shaman

Bob Dylan in Rolling Thunder Revue(Netflix) This lightweight mockumentary reduces Dylan to a leftist cliché.  

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese is a cumbersome title owing to Scorsese’s tortured attempt to distinguish this patchwork about Dylan’s 1976 ragamuffin touring show from his hagiographic 2005 documentary, No Direction Home.

Yet this Revue is still hagiography. Scorsese competes with the mythmaking of the already overworked Dylanolatry industry by constructing an elaborate mockumentary ruse around this 43-year-old pop-music footage, which doesn’t need it.

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The musical performances of Dylan and entourage masked in white face paint, as in his 1976 fantasia Renaldo and Clara, are rousingly intense. Dylan frees himself from his own mystique. The masks hide nothing. Musicianship and fierce singing defy Nobel laureate Dylan’s sanctified-philosopher status. His gift for condensing complex feelings and social reflection into revelatory lyrics is turned back into entertainment — from before rock criticism “hallowed” it out. When Dylan coos “Oh, Sister” or bangs out a piano version of “Simple Twist of Fate,” he’s a showman, not a shaman.

Here’s the problem: Scorsese, whose moralistic ethnic thrillers or genre fantasies are politically evasive, picks up the usual leftist

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