Sunday, December 30, 2007

Pressing On: "I'm Not There"

I'm Not There? Rock Turtleneck is.
One of the upsides of working the week of Christmas in New York City is the long lunch. With virtually no one around, only a fool would pass on the opportunity to catch a film at lunchtime, especially when I'm Not There is playing a mere block away at the Film Forum.

If you are a Bob Dylan fan, you are well familiar with the concept of Todd Haynes's art-house masterpiece: six actors play various facets of the Dylan myth, woven together in a perspective-changing act of cinematic cubism that Dylan himself used in "Tangled Up In Blue."

I loved the film and like to think I picked up on even the most obscure references, from the '66 Dylan-Lennon limo ride to the Basement Tapes outtake "See You Later Allen Ginsburg." But while Cate Blanchett's brilliant spin on the Thin Wild Mercury Bob of '65-'66 has gotten the most press, for me the highlight of the film featured Christian Bale as another Dylan doppelganger named Jack Rollins.

We see Jack Rollins as the "Times They Are A-Changin'"-era Dylan early in the film, the reluctant "voice of a generation" who turns his back on fame to become a preacher in a California church basement. Later, the film catches up with Rollins in the 1970s as he serminizes the small crowd sitting in folding chairs and breaks into Dylan's "Pressing On." (The actual singer is the great John Doe of X, and it is one of the highlights of the mostly excellent I'm Not There soundtrack.)

To me, the "Pressing On" scene summed up Dylan's true essence. More than a shape-shifting mirage or people-hating put-on artist, Dylan is someone who simply presses on, who never lets himself stay in a rut, who follows his muse, hones his craft, trusts his instincts, respects his fans and heeds his calling. Herewith, the "Pressing On" clip from I'm Not There, followed by a great Dylan perfomance of "Pressing On" by Dylan himself on one of his early-80s gospel tours (the original track is on Saved). The venues couldn't be more different, but the feelings they inspire couldn't be more alike.

YouTube: Christian Bale as Jack Rollins (sung by John Doe) "Pressing On," from I'm Not There

YouTube: Bob Dylan, "Pressing On," Massey Hall, Toronto, April 20, 1980


Moving On said...

I myself have trouble dealing with Fundamentalist Christians as I feel they've missed the whole point of Jesus' teachings, and instead have bought into a cultural smokescreen that relies on a thinly veiled superiority complex. A smokescreen that is itself as antithetical to the spirit of His teachings as is the devil they profess to know. But what a treat when someone in our day and age who does accept the "modern Gospel" can see beyond all that and pierce the cultural veil to the truer core. I think Dylan does that with a song like Pressing On and its heartfelt message affects me deeply.

magdalena studios said...

Thanks so much for this!
Oddly I have been composing a blog post on this idea of pressing on and Dylan.
Hadn't put it together with those words/that song... wasn't sure where it was going. I love synchronicity.
I love those Christian time Albums.
Oh those were the days when you could actually go stand by the stage and rock out. I'm getting too old to attempt that now.
Well... hell, I still would if I could afford the ticket prices.

(I keep thinking someone should start a foundation... "take a senior to Dylan day!" LOL
I didn't realize so much of I'm not There is posted on YouTube

redsock said...

Pressing On
April 20, 1980
Massey Hall, Toronto

An amazing show!

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