starring Bob Dylan, John Goodman, Jessica Lange, Luke Wilson
screenplay by Bob Dylan & Larry Charles, writing under very dumb pseudonyms
directed by Larry Charles
by Walter Chaw The three or four times that Larry Charles's Masked and Anonymous features musical performances by its star Bob Dylan (particularly a rousing rendition of "Dixie"), the picture manages to be something just north of unbearable. The rest of the time, it's an interminable ego trip through Dylan's towering sense of self-importance, his almost total inability to relate with reality, and that curious phenomena of popular artists who are at once imperiously patronizing and desperate to be seen as common men. When failed concert promoter Uncle Sweetheart (John Goodman) asks down-on-his-luck folk singer Jack Fate (Dylan) about the importance of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin to American rock-and-lore, the inanity of the answer (and the evasiveness of Dylan's demeanour--"Well, it matters to someone, I guess") isn't mysterious so much as inane and disingenuous; even the evocation of social phenomena as important and galvanizing to roots rock and the inner city as the myth of Stagger Lee is tossed off with a wry flick of the hand. Pretending that he doesn't know himself to be an icon in American music (and, arguably, even of American letters) is the worst kind of arrogance: the sin of false modesty, which Dylan doesn't wear particularly well and is frightfully unbecoming besides.