Rolling Thunder Revue (2019)

rolling thunder revue poster 2019 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Musical documentary that blends fiction and reality

Not as music based as it could be

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Rolling Thunder Revue

Studio:  Grey Water Park Productions/Sikelia Productions

Genre(s):  Musical/Documentary/Drama

Release Date(s):  June 11, 2019 (Sydney Film Festival)/June 12, 2019 (US)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

rolling thunder revue bob dylan

Fact blends into fiction as the music plays

Tours can be difficult.  Magic can happen on stage as collaborators come together in front of live audiences.  When Bob Dylan decided to do the Rolling Thunder Revue, he envisioned an intimate tour as the United States prepared for the Bicentennial and tried to recover as they came out Vietnam.  Like most big tours, not everything goes as planned and but the Rolling Thunder Revue treks on!

Directed by Martin Scorsese, Rolling Thunder Revue (or the longer title Rolling Thunder Revue:  A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese) is a musical pseudo-documentary.  Following Scorsese’s Silence in 2016, The film is a recount of the Rolling Thunder Revue tour from 1975-1976 mixed with fictional accounts of the tour.  The film was released on Netflix on June 12, 2019 and received positive reviews.  The Criterion Collection released a version of the film (Criterion #1062).

This movie is just odd.  It isn’t real, it isn’t false, and it doesn’t differentiate between reality and fiction within the telling of the story.  It is almost a documentary, but it doesn’t really do anything to say it isn’t a documentary…it is a unique experience.

rolling thunder revue bob dylan joan baez

Bob & Joan

The movie sets up that the documentary is a finished documentary of a planned documentary by Stefan Van Dorp…Van Dorp isn’t a real person.  He’s played by Martin Von Haselberg and a contentious relationship between Dylan’s tour and Von Dorp is set-up but Dylan actually shot most of the footage.  The film alludes a bit to this in the opening when Dylan himself says he doesn’t remember much of the tour and that anything he’s saying is made up.

The movie also brings in celebrities like Sharon Stone to tell a fictitious account of touring with the Rolling Thunder Revue, and it also has Michael Murphy playing his Jack Tanner character from Tanner ’88 to further blur the reality.  This is mixed with “real” people involved in the tour like Allen Ginsberg, Patti Smith, Joan Baez, Sam Shepard, Ronee Blakley, Joni Mitchell, and Rubin “Hurricane” Carter…yet none of the reality is separated from the fiction giving a bigger than life feel to the movie.

rolling thunder revue bob dylan the hurricane

Here’s the story of the Hurricane!

The film does look good and features a lot of good clips and some performances.  It is unfortunate at points that it isn’t a documentary or musical performance because there is a lot of “teasing” with the performances.  You want to hear Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, and Dylan performing…and you don’t really get that.

Rolling Thunder Revue is a nice flashback to a period of time that isn’t explored as much.  It isn’t the Vietnam or protest period, but it also isn’t the ’80s.  For me, it is fun to see the world I was born into…the problems facing people and the challenges presented as the 1970s rolled on.  Scorsese creates a strange reality with this movie, but I wish that he had maybe just stuck with a documentary.  Scorsese followed Rolling Thunder Revue with The Irishman also released on Netflix in 2019.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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