Renaldo and Clara (1978)

Renaldo and Clara (1978)

“If you follow Bob long enough, I think maybe you can translate these things.”

While Bob Dylan performs on tour in 1975, fictional vignettes are randomly interspersed, some of which involve him played by other actors.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Concert Films
  • Counterculture
  • Harry Dean Stanton Films
  • Singers

It’s challenging to describe exactly how tedious this hours-long experimental “cubist” film by Bob Dylan (with writing support from Sam Shepard) really is. It’s boring, illogical, pompous, and laughably amateur. The only way I can imagine finding any enjoyment in it at all would be to watch it with others and provide a continuous commentary on its ineptitude, with occasional breaks to listen to some of the actual musical performances — so, in that spirit, here are just a few of my thoughts as I suffered my way through this painful slog:

Why is this film called “Renaldo and Clara” if those characters (played by Bob Dylan and his wife Sara) are only peripheral to the “storyline”?

Oh, there’s the hitchhiker (Helena Kallianiotes) from Five Easy Pieces (1970)! She looks exactly the same. What’s she doing here?

What’s the deal with Dylan wearing white face paint on stage? Is it meant to “subvert blackface”, “hide” his visage, or be a clownish homage (as some claim) to Les Enfants du Paradis (1945)?

Who’s the dude on the pinball machine who keeps showing up to comment on how he once knew and interacted with Dylan?

Could Allen Ginsberg’s presence and performances here be any more embarrassing?

What is Joan Baez doing in this mess, other than supporting her former lover and singing a few songs? Why is she occasionally sporting a hideous accent while wearing a white turban?

Why is Harry Dean Stanton subjected to a short scene in which he’s accused of trading his horse for Baez?

Do ANY of these “narrative threads” connect back to Dylan’s actual songs in some way? Is this all meant to be an insider’s “egg hunt”?

I could go on and on, but won’t. Just — be forewarned.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Occasional enjoyable musical numbers (for fans of Dylan)

Must See?
Nope. Listed as a Cult Movie in the back of Peary’s book, which it may have been at one time but surely isn’t any longer.


3 thoughts on “Renaldo and Clara (1978)

  1. First viewing. S-k-i-p it!!!

    In total agreement. This has got to be among the most boring films ever made!

    If Dylan set out to make something as long as ‘Gone With The Wind’… he almost succeeded; he actually fell short by 15 minutes. If only he had managed one scene – just one! – that in any way remotely grabbed the attention as ‘GWTW’ does. Alas… it’s astounding how bad this film is.

    Nothing works. Visually it’s dull; the conversations (the ones you can actually hear) make your eyes glaze over. Even most of the music (the only saving grace you would think would be present) is bad.

    I didn’t so much watch this film as much as I survived it.

  2. On thinking about it, I’ll credit the film with one sequence: the one involving Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, in which black people are seen talking about race issues. It has no real place in this film but at least it’s engaging.

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