Masked and Anonymous (2003)

Mask5This pointless, droning, pretentious, pompous, and incredibly self-indulgent piece of philosophical dribble is that rare indie film that makes me say “Oh, that’s why it was never widely distributed”. Being released in only 17 theatres, the writer and director for this film do a really ingenious thing, throughout the film. There are about fifty cameos from some really good actors. It not only gives the audience something to look at, but when surrounded around people who can really act, the producers attempt to make us forget how much of a one note simply awful actor Bob Dylan is. I mean he’s Bob Dylan, this man is like a bad-ass in my eyes with some incredible music, but come on, did he really need to do this film?

“Masked and Anonymous” tells us a lot of stuff the audience already knows but tries really hard to come off as philosophical, insightful and tries desperately to bring across commentary about the chaos in Africa (or some country) while people in the film seem to hover around Dylan’s character Jack Fate. Seemingly, no one seems to have ever heard of him, but people still hover around him like a god, but why? All Dylan does throughout the film is sit quietly while a better person acts next to him, attempts to emote, attempts to speak dialogue and sings a lot. What a stretch. I really hate these custom tailored roles in which singers star as singers, isn’t there any way to stretch them beyond that tag? No, and Dylan proves the theory that sometimes singers should stick to singing. Movies are always a vehicle for the fading singer, but this is Bob Dylan, he’s a legend in the folk world, did we really need to see him in the movie?

So, the plot goes like this: There’s a vicious network seeking to start a concert for Africa in the midst of riots and carnage, two agents (Jessica Lange, John Goodman) discover they can’t get a name band or singer, so they recruit Jack Fate, a mysterious and odd person whom they get from a prison. Fate is more than willing to get back into singing but throughout the film he skips from “I really want to sing” to “I have to sing or they’ll kill me”. Suffice it to say there’s not a whole lot of inconsistency regarding Fate’s attitude towards making his return to the stage but nonetheless through the self-indulgent score which is comprised of Bob Dylan songs no doubt, and he wears a quasi-cowboy hat, a cowboy suit two sizes too big and carries a guitar case jumping into the gig traveling to the studio. While going there he comes across an odd array of characters played by great actors no less. These actors are placed throughout points in the movie to deliver dialogue and then disappear for no apparent reason, their here to make the audience say “Hey, there’s so and so!” while forgetting that the movie is pointless and that Dylan couldn’t act to save his life.

There’s an appearance from folks like Penelope Cruz, John Goodman, Jessica Lange, and Luke Wilson, to name a few, and then there’s a subplot with Jeff Bridges. There are many subplots during the film that revolve around Dylan’s character and a constant tribute to his songs that is just bad. There’s Lange’s character masturbating to his music, a cute little girl singing her interpretation of Dylan’s “Times are a-changing”, a rare good and cute scene, and there’s the many Spanish versions of his music belted throughout the film that are just painful to hear. Many of the scenes in the film have trite dialogue attempting to philosophize life with some monologue but it’s been done and better in films from Richard Linklater and here it’s an attempt at drama but it’s just so bad. There’s even a few pointless scenes where dialogue is placed with introductions of characters that are so ridiculous and obvious that it just made me groan. There’s Wilson’s characters introduction and then there’s a scene with Slater and Penn that made me ask “What was the point of that?” It’s a question you will be asking yourself throughout the film up to the climax.

There’s this really funny scene in the end that just doesn’t seem to make sense with a big fight between all the characters to which Dylan breaks a bottle and sticks it to Bridges face. This scene is intended to be really dramatic, but if you look closely, it looks like the director is whispering directions to Dylan in the background “Break the glass… good… stick it to Jeff’s face… now look angry, you’re very angry!” But it’s just such a funny scene and very awkward. Simply, Dylan is out of his league in the film. What Dylan does here is try to make himself larger than life, a ploy that simply doesn’t work here and within the pointless cameos there’s a sense of misery here, but I’m not sure if its from Dylan, the actors around him, or from the audience. This is an awful, self indulgent, ego-maniacal, and purely vain ode to Dylan who attempts to make himself larger than life amidst these cameos of great actors. There’s no point to this miserable film, and I’m just ashamed.