Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sunday, December 6, 2009

No Direction Home

Martin Scorcese examines Bob Dylan's ascendancy as a young artist. The film's use of rare archival footage and extensive interviews with Dylan, Suze Rotolo, Bob Neuwirth and Joan Baez make this an extraordinary film for Dylan fans, who up to this point, had little access to Dylan's perspective and had to piece together what happened by reading various biographies. Scorcese makes interesting choices as a filmmaker, juxtaposing footage from different eras out of chronological order. Today's Dylan reflecting on his childhood in Minnesota is interspersed with footage from Eat The Document of his 1966 tour. His early influences are represented by archival performances and his journey to New York City is well-covered, as are the Newport Folk Festivals, going electric and his early British tours. Scorcese does a great job showing just how much pressure Dylan was under to be a spokesperson for a generation by including lengthy press conferences that document how absurd things got. To his credit, Dylan clearly states he didn't know the answers to all the questions that people expected him to have and didn't see that as part of his job as an artist. As people's expectations got higher, so did he. His drug use is not discussed, but archival footage shows him getting skinnier and more and more out of it the more famous he became. The movie takes us to July 1966, when Dylan's infamous motorcycle crash occurs, after which he would not tour for eight years. The film includes cool clips of other 20th century icons such as Pete Seeger, Allen Ginsburg, Johnny Cash and Andy Warhol. Essential viewing for anyone interested in understanding Bob Dylan as a cultural phenomenon, popular musician, poet and artist.

Friday, December 4, 2009


Tonight I saw Casablanca as part of "Dine Out for OFS". I enjoyed it and have seen it often over the years. Here's how I viewed it tonight:

Casablanca as a militarized, romantic, masculine (patriarchal) tale of "the greater good" over-ruling individualism (symbolized by romantic love)....

+ultimately Rick (Bogart) pulls the strings, disallowing Ilsa (Bergman) agency showing (not telling) that real men know what's best for us all.

+Dramatic storyline follows Rick's (Bogart) struggle as an amoral individualist (a man out for himself, a man without a country it seems) who has been betrayed/ emasculated and made a fool of by "woman" symbolized by Ilsa (Bergman)--by the end of this tale he places his loyalty the public good and "what's right" over what he wants (the girl); but as the girl has already humiliated him (what a castrating bitch! beware of women calling the shots and make sure you keep a strong handle on them or they will stab you in the back!) this is only right and natural (as the frogs would say) and he is back on track; a part of society again, rejecting domestic bliss for fighting the good fight--manhood is defined against the home (female) and he is a warrior; a hero.

In this story, strength=the ability to overcome emotions & desire in service of the greater good (your country, the state, what is right). The warrior must become invincible to women. The hero must march off to his destiny and be willing to leave love behind. A real man should be willing to sacrifice personal happiness and to suffer in silence.

Interesting to view this as a wartime fable. Fascinating that this story functions as a sentimental romance that upholds macho ideas about manhood and transfers the sentimental, romance from a man/woman storyline to a man-as-fighter storyline.

The scene in the bar when the Germans are singing and Bogart has the band start playing is pivotal in the action of the plot and demonstrates the transfer of sentimental love of woman to sentimental love of country.

I've always enjoyed watching this movie. The acting is great, the screenplay is hilarious, it's well-filmed and well-constructed at every level. I also identify with the theme of putting the greater good over individual happiness, but as a woman I am troubled by the way Bergman's character is robbed of her power. I have thought about this a lot, but this is the first time I remember viewing it as disseminating militarized gender roles that functioned to serve the interest of the country at the time the film came out.

Imagine all the young couples going to see this as they were getting ready to march off to war. Many were never reunited. The stoic, suffering man as dignified symbol of strength serves the war effort nicely, as does the weakened, domestic female whose needs necessarily come second at times of war. Conclusion: there is dignity in sacrifice, besides women are not trustworthy anyways!