In another Playboy interview, from 12 years later, Dylan talks about “mass communication” having “killed” New York, having turned it into “one big carnival sideshow.” These days, “mass communication” is even more murderous. Could a musical artist with anything like Dylan’s genius and influence emerge now?
I don’t know. The thing is, we don’t have shared experiences as a culture the way we did before. The Internet and other technologies seem to be moving us away from human contact — or at least splintering us into infinite subsets of constituencies. I’m sure there’s radical potential in that, but I don’t really know what it is yet. As a filmmaker, as someone who’s all about getting people in the theater to watch something together on a big screen, I have my worries about it.
But in terms of I’m Not There, isn’t there something about our fragmented culture that would seem conducive to the success of a film that is itself so fragmented?
Maybe so. I have to say, I’m still utterly blown away by how the film is being received. I had much grimmer expectations for how it would be reviewed.
That makes me think you must’ve made the film in a state not unlike that of Dylan playing the Royal Albert Hall in ’66: they won’t appreciate it anyway, so . . . play fuckin’ loud!
I’d like to feel that way about myself, but I’ve never experienced the kind of open hostility that Dylan did. I’ve never been asked to become a punker. He was — and then he invented punk right then and there. I’ve been extremely well supported by the press and the audience throughout my career.
Dylan fans tend to be almost evangelical — in part because we could never hope to come anywhere near his level of accomplishment. We don’t feel inspiration from his career so much as pure awe. Still, do you hope the film will have some inspirational impact?
What I hope is that the film cracks open the dangerous spirit of Dylan for younger people who maybe aren’t as susceptible to that sense of awe. I’d like kids to get that Dylan was famous not because he made Dad feel cool or macho, but because he was doing something really strange and fearless.
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