Saturday, January 26, 2008

When i was coming out of the press screening of "Don't Look Back", ran into Ronnie Scheib, who was coming out of the final press screening of Pere Portabello's "The Silence Before Bach". And we talked about "The Silence Before Bach" (which we both liked). I mentioned how surprised i was by the film, because my idea of a film "about" Bach has been so colored by the Straubs' "The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach" (which i adore, it remains one of my favorite music films of all time) that i anticipated an austere film. But Portabello is not a rigidly intellectual director: he's someone prone to sudden surreal inspirations, and "The Silence Before Bach" is a series of vignettes which often use Bach's music as a pretext. It's a collage, and there are a few inexplicable moments, which seem to suggest a subconscious intent.

So i went in expecting something like "The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach", and i came out with something more like Francois Girard's "32 Short Films About Glenn Gould".

(Just as an aside: it seems as if people have really rigidly preconceived ideas about what is proper in relation to biography, etc. I bring this up because so many people who didn't like "I'm Not There" always refer to the fact that it doesn't seem to be "about" Bob Dylan, but then it seems that the "Bob Dylan" that these detractors want is some very specific figment of their own imagination. I can sympathize with that sentiment, i remember feeling a little that way about "32 Short Films About Glenn Gould", but i also remember feeling quite delighted with the smoothness with which the disparate vignettes - straight documentary, dramatized moments, flights of fancy - were put together by Girard. And i feel the same delight with "The Silence Before Bach".)


Blogger Michael in New York said...

Looking forward to The Silence of Bach. Never heard of the Magdalena movie; will seek it out eagerly. I loved 32 Short Films when I saw it. As for I'm Not There, I found it a noble mess. My problem was not expecting or looking for a particular Dylan. It just didn't cohere for me. I liked the Woody Dylan (the little black boy) and Cate was fun and some of the others were good too. They just didn't build on each other for me. The Richard Gere was the weakest -- like the Twyla Tharp Dylan show, it tried to literalize the flights of fancy in Dylan's wordplay to deadly effect. But since Gere was the first on board, Haynes refused to cut his section even though everyone argued for that. Certainly it ruined the end of the movie, which had its perfect final moment with Cate's Sphinx-like smile and then followed it with five minutes of Gere to no effect. But I love Dylan and ironically the best new use of his music was in the Gere section when they used Going Down To Acapulco or whatever for the funeral scene. Terrific. And frankly I was entertained because there was always some Dylan music around the corner. But I just didn't feel illuminated by it. As for Don't Look Back, I strongly disagree. I didn't find Dylan in those interviews to ever be bratty or snotty. He's very very bright and having fun but he is ALWAYS answering the questions and treating them seriously, even though the questions pop stars would be asked then by the media made even junkets of today look brilliant in comparison. It was more like a gauntlet then where he was treated like a fool and asked absurdly regimented questions but Dylan is always struggling to deal with the questions in a very playful but real manner and giving them more due than the questioner ever intended. And he's funny without being mean. They ask dumb questions and he gives smart answers. I think it's just magnetic. And please rent or buy The Other Side of the Mirror if you like Dylan. It's just terrific, I think.

12:10 AM


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