Shot in 1975/76 during The Rolling Thunder Revue tour, Bob Dylan’s four epic vanity production, Renaldo And Clara, is a pretentious hodgepodge of disconnected vignettes shot through with occasional moments of musical brilliance. But even staggeringly good performances of “Knocking On Heaven’s Door” “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and “Tangled Up In Blue” can’t save this bloated folly flung from the depths of Dylan’s gargantuan narcissism.
A commercial bust when it was first theatrically released, Dylan later cut the film by almost two hours, leaving mostly concert footage, and even then audiences stayed away in droves.
In describing the making of Renaldo And Clara, Dylan said “a third is improvised, about a third is determined, and about a third is blind luck.” The improvisation part is clearly apparent and I imagine that the determined part is an allusion to the musical performances. But the last ingredient, the “blind’ thing, is what seems to have really driven the film…and blind ain’t good in a visual medium.
While a few critics compared Renaldo And Clara to French surrealist films like Les Enfants Du Paradis (must be Dylan’s mime make-up), I see absolutely no poetry or magic in the movie. I’m a Dylan fan and over the years I’ve repeatedly tried watching R&C with all the mercy and love I can bring to it. But it has yet to reveal any hidden genius to me. Are there readers out there who see something in this that I don’t? I’m open to having my mind changed. Really.
Anyway, here’s Renaldo And Clara in its uncut shambolic glory. It looks beautiful. Much better than the bootlegs I’ve seen in the past.