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Renaldo and Clara

Dylan cartoon Or:
When I Paint My Masterpiece, Part 3, The Influences

 by Chris Cooper


Well I guess it’s time for the final bit on Renaldo and Clara, seems a long while ago now too. Hope we both remember where we are and what we are doing. I sort of thought this was going to be easy this month, I knew more or less what I was going to do. I also knew that I was going to have a fair bit of spare time. Funny how time slips away, Elvis I believe? Well it sure is true. I have the odd excuse, I was going to be home recuperating from a minor operation. Unfortunately it proved to be a bit more major than minor and whilst it is ok now it has meant I have had less energy for things than I expected to have. I’m the kind of guy that sits around almost never, I usually am doing at least 2 things at once, often more. Sometimes though you let these things take on more importance than they should have. So it has been both enlightening and surprising to find myself taking several days just watching dvds and reading.

I wish I could say I spent the time watching Renaldo and Clara, but it is not so I’m afraid (mostly Star Trek I am afraid) but have no fear it is on now, so lets recap slightly.

Renaldo and Clara was billed when screened in the UK as the “Rolling Thunder Road Movie”, this is not an entirely inaccurate assessment of course. It is filmed during the tour and roughly a third of its 230 minutes is indeed concert footage. But, two thirds is not. I am sure it goes without saying though that the concert shows Dylan at the very pinnacle of his on stage persona.

And the non-concert footage, whilst at first seeming to simply portray the chaos of life on the road it certainly appears to cast comment on Dylan’s life outside the tour, and his attitudes to a number of issues. We’ll come back to that in a minute.

I have suggested that Dylan may well have borrowed much of the thematic flow of Renaldo & Clara from the film “The Children Of Paradise” (see FW 216) there are just too many connections for it to be mere coincidence. However Dylan probably saw this film whilst in France in May 75, but by this time the tour, and the idea of filming it, were already past the planning stage. Ginsberg has spoken about this in several interviews, one given in Australia in 1978 reports how Bob had the scenes marked out on cards and arranged the sequence of them, deliberately mixing the medicine, as it were. (Wouldn’t you like to see those cards now?) So, we ask ourselves was the film what Dylan had planned? Or had it metamorphosized into something else.

This brings me nicely back to Dylan’s life and attitudes. Whilst the film was being made Bob’s relationship with Sara was breaking up, he was clearly being placed in a position whereby he had to examine the whole basis of his relationship with Sara, and one imagines, with women generally.

Throughout the film many of the scenes address contemporary issues that I would imagine Dylan was contemplating a lot at the time.

His relationship with Sara
His past relationship with Joan Baez and it’s affect on his marriage
His ideas of marriage
His consideration of homosexuality
His ideas of sexual freedom, and the difference between love and lust
The role of religious belief in his life
Life on the road
Dealing with his own mortality and his aging
Dealing with becoming an “icon” and that rock n roll is a young mans thing

Dylan has always shrouded his private life in as much mystery as he could manage so these thoughts are not going to be examined to closely in public. But many of them can be transposed, or projected onto others, and then if they are placed within the film of course Bob could vent the ideas and retain at least a degree of anonymity, and that, I believe is what Renaldo and Clara is really about.

So, let me take these points and expand on them a little. I have listed all the scenes that I see has pertinent to these matters using my scene breakdown that was printed in FW’s 217 and 218.

His relationship with Sara
Scenes:

9, 11, 14, 17,19, 29, 43, 49, 61, 63, 75, 86, 92, 96, 102, 106, 107, 108, 110, 116, 117, 123, 127.

Obviously a pivotal part of the film, it is hard to break these down from those that affect Joan Baez and marriage in general. Clearly Dylan has issues in all these areas. You can feel the desperation in many of these scenes, desperation to grasp and hold onto a past idea, dream that is now slipping past him.

His past relationship with Joan Baez and it’s affect on his marriage
Scenes:

47, 50, 63, 82, 84, 86, 88, 90, 102, 107, 108, 109, 113, 114, 116, 118, 123, 125.

Much cross over with the Sara scenes, though noticeably Joan gets to speak/sing her own side of the story , whereas Sara’s perspective seems to be largely placed there by Dylan. Maybe Joan co-operated more, maybe Sara was just to close for it to be that abstract. I know a lot of Joan Baez knockers but I am not one. Yes she has a large ego, yes she is very strongly opinionated, but she has never hidden her feelings of Dylan and I think has been frank about her past and its links with Dylan. This has clearly had an effect on his marriage and I think you find that scenes with Joan are often based around marriage principles here.

His ideas of marriage
Scenes:

4, 18, 19, 29, 34, 41, 45, 47, 50, 51, 61,75, 81, 86, 92, 95, 99,106, 116, 121, 123.

More of the above, there are however a number of scenes that deal with the concept of marriage rather than any direct effect on Bob’s.

His consideration of homosexuality
Scenes:

30, 33, 41, 52, 96, 99, 103, 120.

This crops up more than I thought actually, though I can see why it is an issue in a film that is mostly about relationships. I wonder how much Allens involvement in the film influenced these scenes inclusion?

His ideas of sexual freedom, and the difference between love and lust
Scenes:

4, 17, 20, 29, 41, 43, 45, 47, 49, 52, 63, 84, 92, 95, 99, 107,116.

Again a lot of crossover, seems Bob has trouble deciding whether he should be married or not. Or at least confined by it. I was once told that love an lust are like two candles. Lust has a bright flame that burns fast, Love has a smaller flame but lasts longer. Often Bob seems to wrestle with those problems. This is nothing new I know, but for Dylan to addres them in public at a time when they were directly affecting him is nothing short of heroic.

The role of religious belief in his life
Scenes:

7, 13, 16, 20, 26, 45, 58, 68, 102, 113, 130.

I am surprised this does not feature more. Indeed at this point Dylan’s views seem quite traditionally Jewish. Of course he was only a year or two away from profound Christian changes, though I see no hint of that here.

Life on the road
Scenes:

1, 12, 13, 24, 27, 37, 38, 56, 97, 132.

An obvious setting this and I imagine a simple way to help link the movie together. Though that would suggest there should be more scenes than this.

Dealing with his own mortality and his aging
Scenes:

14, 23, 27, 40, 51, 56, 60, 75.

I would like to have seen this addressed more, I would think if he ever made Renaldo & Clara the Sequel this would fill the film. But it features enough here, I assume that this was a by-product of his disintegrating social life at the time.

Dealing with becoming an “icon” and that rock n roll is a young mans thing
Scenes:

3, 24, 28, 32, 36, 40, 81, 97, 112, 121, 137.

I think Bob sets the obvious cliches here, can you be old and play Rock n Roll? Etc. I get the feeling they are included because it is sort of expected.

There are other areas I am sure people will say I good have mentioned,. Like the sizeable part that Hurricane Carters plight has in the film. I am not devaluing there importance. But the purpose here was to examine the honesty that the films shows about the personal life of Bob

I would venture as far to say that most of us at some time in our lives has considered such issues, and usually in private, so for Dylan to come out in public like this is pretty courageous. But for me that has always been the lynch pin on which I hang my own interest in Dylan. His ability to bring focus to many things that I may contemplate, but not necessarily solve for myself. I do not suggest that Bob solves my problems, but that his art empowers me to examine them from a different viewpoint.

And with that I must stop, or I may start entering the shady egocentric area of lyric analysis, and that’s one zone that I prefer to keep private.

So is this or is it not his Masterpiece? You decide, I already have made up my mind, as I hope you can all see.


Till Next Time

 
 
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