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Martin Scorsese on Monday night premiered his latest documentary about Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue at New York’s Alice Tully Hall. The Netflix film explores the rag-tag group of bohemian artists, including Allen Ginsburg, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, and more, who toured with Dylan in the 1970s.
Scorsese had been wanting to revisit Dylan and his work ever since he did No Direction Home, another documentary on the iconic singer-songwriter, in 2005.
“I felt that I missed being around that world, dealing with that music and those lyrics, and I said, ‘If you ever have anything, let me know,'” Scorsese said. “And so [producer Jeff Rosen] brought me some of the footage in 2008 and I looked it and said, ‘Maybe something can be done with this.’ Obviously something could be done. I wanted to do something that captured the spirit of the tour, not just the chronology of it.”
The resulting film, Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story, feels like an intimate Dylan concert, and, at the premiere, audience members applauded after songs as if the performance was live.
“I wanted to make a movie with that music and those words and that time, really that time which is very special. I wanted, I hope, to capture the timelessness of his work and all of them, that spirit that they pulled together to go on that wild tour and the resonance for our culture today,” Scorsese said. “It’s genuine. It’s authentic. It means something. It continually means something. You could listen to the music or read the lyrics, it could be sung by anyone and it still means something to you. It’s still fresh, it’s still new, which means it could stand the test of time.”
Original tour member David Mansfield attended Monday’s screening and said that the revue was “one of the formative events of my entire life being on this tour.”
“Bob Dylan still speaks to the current generation of music fans, and to see him at his prime being the most creative, most vital, I think that’s an easy sell,” he said.
Fran Lebowitz was the subject of Scorsese’s documentary Public Speaking, and she said the filmmaker is a delight to spend time with.
“I enjoyed being with Marty. Marty is fun, and there are very few great directors but even fewer people who are fun,” she said. “Sometimes he would want to do something and I wouldn’t understand why, and then I realized Marty sees pictures in his head you don’t. So don’t argue with him until you see it.”
After the screening, guests flocked to Tavern on the Green in Central Park for the afterparty, where live music and buffets kept people out into the evening, despite the drizzly weather.