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Movie Review: Bob Dylan and ‘Masked and Anonymous’

Two views on Dylan’s polarizing new film

Bob Dylan and Jessica Lange during the Sundance Film Festival, 'Masked and Anonymous' Party.

Bob Dylan and Jessica Lange during the Sundance Film Festival, 'Masked and Anonymous' Party.

J. Vespa/WireImage

Musically, there’s not a wrong note in Masked and Anonymous – Bob Dylan picks and sings a mean “Dixie.” It’s only when the film attempts to express its ideas in spoken English that logic dissolves into a muddle that would test the most rabid Dylanologist. Word is that Dylan dreamed up this allegorical twaddle, though two other writers are credited. Director Larry Charles (Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm) fails to provide one essential: direction. I’m still lost. Dylan plays Jack Fate, a legend sprung from jail to headline a TV concert for the benefit of a country – I think it’s this one – ravaged by war. Actors show up in a futile effort to coax an expression out of granite Jack: Jeff Bridges, Penelope Cruz, Jessica Lange, Val Kilmer. Mickey Rourke is in it, too, which should tell you something. Dylan just stares in mute incomprehension. I know the feeling. —Peter Travers 

Masked and Anonymous is a gold mine for Dylan’s loyal legions. Whether he’s electrifying with his band on “Down in the Flood” and “Dixie” or delivering abstract mantras, Dylan is as up-close as you’ve ever seen him – the wrinkles on his enigmatic face, his staccato rasp, his limping swagger. Sure, the script has no graspable plot, but who cares? Dylan’s best work has always defied easy interpretation. As he wails in a live version of “Cold Irons Bound,” “Reality has always had too many heads.” —Austin Scaggs

This story is from the August 21, 2003 issue of Rolling Stone.

In This Article: Bob Dylan, Larry Charles

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