Exhuming Bob XXX: Pt. II, A Review Of Masked And Anonymous

May 21, 2011

Exhuming Bob XXX

A Review: Part II

Masked And Anonymous

by

R.E. Prindle

Desolation Row

Aww, Sing It , Bob

   When Dylan left home in the summer of ’59 for UMinnesota he would have been at the bottom of his despondency in its raw form.  His subconscious would have been in possession of his mind.  He manifested this condition at UMinnesota by a burst of degraded behavior, drunkeness and an inability to study.  He did know his salvation lay in his music.  He then practiced hard and assiduously.  He apparently realized that he wasn’t rock n’ roll material while Folk Music was the rage, at the height of its popularity, although the slough of its despond could be seen from the heights.  It was petering out even as Dylan rode it to fame and fortune.  As he says in the revised Shelton he always knew that Folk Music was a shuck but he could do it and use it as a springboard.

     Using his friends and acquaintances in Minneapolis to educate him he learned to sing and play quickly.  Still deep in the throes of depression, ruled by his subconscious, he left for New York to try his luck there.  It was two months after his arrival in New York before he turned up in Greenwich Village.  He has said that during those two months he was hustling in Times Square.  No one knows whether to take him seriously but given his state of mind he may have attempted to degrade himself beyond redemption to satisfy his father’s prophesy.  He remained a heavy drinker in New York adding drugs to his repertoire.  According to Andy Warhol who should have known an A Head when he saw

A. Warhol

one Dylan was racing on amphetamines.  It wouldn’t have been hard to do as nearly everyone in New York at the time was.  The Village was a tough place and getting much tougher as Dylan went along.

     He took up his station at a bar called the Kettle Of Fish which was a Mafia owned bar and undoubtedly tough enough.  It may have been there that he and Andy Warhol first crossed paths as Andy frequented the place also.  While it has not been recognized, they were actually competitors for the role of  King of Bohemia.  Although Warhol was much older they both began their rise at the same time coming to an apex simultaneously.  A war of sorts ensued in which Dylan’s base was Downtown and Warhol’s base Midtown.  Later Lennon and Ono would form an Uptown base but by that time Dylan had moved along although he continued to associate with Ono at least through the eighties.  They may still meet but I haven’t come across any references.

     Despondent people usually see the world as a Zoo, an insane asylum, a desert, a hole or in Dylan’s case as a state of desolation.  In 1965 he wrote the song Desolation Row as he fought to free himself from his depression.  He has retained this despondent state of mind from then to the present if his movie Masked And Anonymous is any indication.  Thus the movie is a visualization of a tour of Desolation Row with ‘all the clowns and jugglers doing their tricks for you.’   The movie is a real side show if seen from that perspective.  Indeed Dylan depicts a side show carnival act of The Man Eating Chicken which when you part the curtain shows a man eating chicken.  My favorite memory of the midway was the Black Widow Spider Woman.  Had a little chat with her too.  At any rate Dylan hasn’t really advanced beyond 1959 when he left home.

      There is nothing attractive in the movie.  The lighting is usually dark and depressing.  I don’t remember one scene in which the sun was out.  The streets are vile, everything is a shambles or broken as he said in his song, Everything’s Broken.  That means that he views himself as a broken man, beyond repair.    One can see why Suze Rotolo was fearful.  She had every right  to be if one judges from the way Dylan treated his madonna, Sara.  After psychologically abusing her for a decade she had no choice but to leave when she came down for breakfast one day and found her husband carousing with another woman.  Dylan hasn’t been able to change his self-destructive behavior; if he weren’t able to make the money he does he himself would have been a bum on Desolation Row long ago.

     Thus we are treated to a longish filmed tour down skid row to look into the blank despairing faces of derelicts as if they were the norm.  Normal people do not exist to Dylan’s mind.  The streets were dotted with burning oil drums, the streets look pockmarked and unkempt left by a society unable to care and incapable of maintaining its infrastructure.  Echoes of Greil Marcus and David Lynch abound.

     Dylan injects his religious fundamentalism into the story where the desk of the Editor bears a copy of the statue of the monkey reading Darwin’s Origin Of Species prominently displayed.  Again, the building beside which the rundown bar cum TV studio is placed is the Masonic Hall on LA’s preeminent Whilshire Blvd, one of the great streets of the world.  The Masons who once shaped the world and were the founders of the United States Of America, competitors with Judaism for rule of the world have fallen on hard times.  Members have drifted away and no new ones recruited so the magnificent building stands empty.  That old Masonic Lodge is vacant now with  its grand ideals inscribed on its outside walls, as are Masonic Lodges across the country.  Ours has been taken over by the museum.

     Dylan in his Hibbing days was trained for the his Bar Mitzvah by an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi of the Lubavitcher sect brought in by his father who was powerful both among the Jews and Gentiles of Hibbing.  Dylan has never lost his Lubavitcher or at least Orthodox sympathies so that the use of the Temple is a mockery of Freemasonry by Judaism in Dylan’s hands.  Behold the winner, he says.

     At the same time, for the duration of the movie Dylan was able to make a stink pit of the grand Wilshire Miracle Mile making it reflect his vision of reality.  He was to project his psycological miasma on it to obliterate the beauty.

     As I say, to him, everything is broken down.  At one point he borrows his buddy , Bobby Cupid’s car which is a broken down old monster from Detroit’s golden era of the fifties and sixties.  He is on the way to visit a Black prostitute.  He crashes the car into a telphone pole walking away leaving it there smoking.  Once again this is dark, even though night it is a duller dark than need be, a Halloween night before the demons are released from hell to reclaim the night for their annual visit.

     The fallen woman, the Negro prostitute, lives in what once was a fine old mansion but now has fallen on hard times itself.  What was once a grand approach is now a ruins blending in with the shadows that have no bottom.  You can hear the earth groan as Dylan steps on it.  The effect is so repulsive and unredeemable that one has no sympathy with the movie or Dylan and Larry Charles.

     I could go on describing each degraded, broken scene but the record of that depressing aura would bring me down as well as yourself.

2.

     Let us take a look at the way Dylan uses his extras who populate the movie.  If you thought the locations were depressing the cast is even more desolated.

     The racial composition of the movie is of interest if this is how Dylan sees reality.  There are no obvious Jews in the movie.  Of course one knows that Dylan is Jewish but he is disguised as a goy cowboy, an incarnation of Rambling Jack Elliott.  Perhaps Dylan has patterned this stage of his life  after that of Jack Elliott after whom he patterned his early career also, actually studying and imitating him to the point where people said:  ‘Look Jack, he’s stealing your act.’  As Elliott had priority in the persona Dylan might almost be perceived as Jack’s doppelganger although more successful.  His character is named Jack.  Elliott is also a Brooklyn Jewish cowboy.

     The main actors are all White except for Penelope Cruz’ Pagan Lace who appears to be Mexican while apparently being a devout Catholic is no pagan.  The bit players and extras are predominantly Mexican.  They all have a bracero appearance, the kind of look that used to seen as typically Mexican.  On Fate’s bus ride to the City the entire bus is filled with Mexicans which means, I suppose, the place was either Mexico or LA.

     The Muzak of the background seems to always be a group singing Dylan’s songs in Spanish, rather puzzling.  As mentioned, Fate’s father inexplicably seems to be Mexican while Fate’s mother also looks Mexican.   The Micky Rourke character, who is apparently Fate’s half brother, is  Mexican.  Rourke muses that his people began as servants but own the big house now while they are taking over the country.

     In the barroom scenes those enraptured by Dylan’s Country and Western tunes are improbably Mexicans and Negroes.  To watch them bop out the rhythm rapturously to Dylan’s version of Dixie  (I wish I was in the land of cotton…) is a sight to behold- defies all reason and experience.  Who ever saw an African American at a Dylan concert?  One wonders what Dylan was smoking, snorting, shooting, drinking or perhaps doing a combination of all four.

     The manner in which our old Civil Rights activist portrays Blacks is also astounding.  They are all thugs, criminals and prostitutes without exception.  Well, except for the little mulatto girl who sings The Times They Are A  Changin’.  However she has a mean, nasty White mother in combat boots.  The mother says that her daughter has memorized all of Fate’s songs.  Fate asks:  ‘Why did you do that, honey?’  The mean, nasty White mother interjects:  ‘Because I made her, that’s why.’  Almost made me ashamed to be White.  I had to brush up on my nasty act.  The little girl launches into the song while everyone listens rapturously, enthralled at truth coming from the mouth of a babe.    I know she is supposed to be a scene stealer but the kid was only passable.  Not only was she no threat to the reputation of the young Michael Jackson, she wasn’t even a threat to Donnie Osmond.  But, this is Dylan’s movie.

     The first Negroes we see are two loan enforcers who are explaining the facts of life to Uncle Meat, excuse me, Uncle Sweetheart who owes more than he can pay.  The Blacks give him a good beating informing him that they’ll be back.

     The next Negroes we are introduced to improbably run the TV Network, possibly CBS,  which also seems to be a stretcher.  Not only do the Mexicans look like they missed high school but the Black Pres. of the Network acts like he left school after the sixth grade.

     The head of the Network conducts business with a loaded .45 automatic on the conference table.

     I don’t know what number this is in Dylan’s list of bad dreams but one does wonder what he ate before he climbed into bed.  Dylan seems to search out freaks for his Desolation Row.  He has a close up after the Animal Lover scene of a guy’s face that looks like a very bad case of scabies after being run over by a truck.  I don’t know whether he was made up or Dylan found him somewhere and gave him scale and all the pot he could smoke.

     If this movie is Dylan’s version of reality then the congressmen and senators should gather around and lend him a helping hand.   Thank god Dylan doesn’t strive for verisimilitude, the whole movie is acted like Jr. High kids playing adults while filming it in the basement.  It would help if they were mixing up some medicine.  Since everything is fake you don’t have to run from the theatre screaming although I’m told that many did.  I’m tough, I’ve sat through ten showings of this thing but, yes, I do believe I’ve had enough.

Part III follows in the next post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s