Music From the Motion Picture Masked and Anonymous

Aug 20, 2003 at 12:00 am

Every decade or so Bob Dylan agrees to act in a rambling shambles of a movie that rivals Elvis' Harum Scarum for monumentally wasting star magnitude. It's hard to believe the same savvy, sarcastic manipulator of the press and public we first saw in the 1967 documentary Don't Look Back is the same guy who signed on to play a mumbling general store schlub in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. And when Zimmy stepped behind the camera for his directorial debut, Renaldo and Clara, many wished he was back in Sam Peckinpah country inventorying cans of beans and stew.

Dylan's last acting outing was 1987's straight-to-video Hearts of Fire, which offered the horrific sight of Dylan getting called a "dip" by nobody diva Fiona and sharing a stage with an all-singing, all-writhing Rupert Everett.

Buoyed by his 2000 Academy Award for Best Song ("Things Have Changed" from Wonder Boys) Dylan was tempted to direct/write/star again but unfortunately, this futurist farce is both light on new songs and performances. The bulk of this sound track consists of Dylan songs as performed by a U.N. delegation. Although it's fun (at least once) to hear the Japanese Magokoro Brothers sing a karaoke "My Back Pages" or to hear Italians Articolo 31 chop up and sample "Like a Rolling Stone" and call it "Come Una Pietra Scalciata," it's another thing to willingly put it on again.

Most of the cover versions included here are pre-existing, including two live performances by sentimental favorites the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia, which makes you wonder how these tracks are represented in a film about a "mythical Third World America."(A futuristic tape-swapping stand, perhaps?) Dylan's musical performances in the film only number four that's fewer times than Jonathan Richman appears as a roving troubadour in There's Something About Mary. This sound track screams missed opportunity since it could've been the first excuse for a live album from his current touring band, who regaled the cast and crew with these exceptional soundstage romps on the last two days of shooting.

Don't be suckered into thinking that the deluxe edition of the Masked and Anonymous sound track that retails for a few dollars more contains any outtakes, either that bonus disc is nothing more than seven paid advertisements for Sony's upcoming SACD Surround Sound Dylan reissues. Which makes you wonder why, if they included as one of the bonus cuts a SACD version of "Cold Irons Bound" from the Masked and Anonymous sound track, didn't they just issue the whole sound track in SACD format and save completists the trouble of having to buy this set again? Are we gonna get a bonus disc boasting Sony's holographic sound or will the Magokoro Brothers get around to also covering "4th Time Around"?

E-mail Serene Dominic at [email protected].