Thursday, July 21, 2011

Allen and Bob in Renaldo and Clara (ASV # 13)

[2012 update - Renaldo and Clara, Bob Dylan's "classic subterranean film", despite these notes, remains strictly under copyright, unreleased, and (the many "bootlegs" circulating, notwithstanding), strictly unavailable. The video-clip that first appeared on this post was from an unauthorized source and has been taken down. Likewise, our somewhat forward presentation (via the Dangerous Minds blog) of the whole movie (in this post of February 2012). A brief clip (Allen and Dylan famously at Jack Kerouac's grave in Lowell) can be glimpsed here (it's one of the "extras" on Jerry Aronson's - The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg). Otherwise, understandable curiosity notwithstanding, the film is "buried", and, despite persistent rumors, no plans that we know about are afoot for its release]

Allen writing to his father, Louis
(from Michael Schumacher’s under-appreciated dual-biography, Family Business: Two Lives In Letters And Poetry):

Newport, Rhode Island Nov 4 1975

Dear Louis,

Beautiful day with Dylan in Lowell Mass, beginning early afternoon visiting Kerouac’s grave plot and reading the stone,”He honored the world” - We stood in the November sun brown leaves flying in wind, & read poems from Mexico City Blues, then we sat down, Dylan played my harmonium, Peter beside him, and we traded lines improvising a song to Kerouac underground beneath grass and stone. Then Dylan played Blues chords on his guitar while I improvised a ten stanza song about Jack looking down with empty eyes from clouds – Dylan stopped guitar to stuff a brown leaf in his breast pocket while I continued solo voice and he picked up his guitar to pluck it on the beat perfect to the end of my stanza – little celestial inspired ditty on Kerouac’s grave - all recorded for movie (sic), then shot many other scenes in Catholic statue grotto Jack wrote about, near an orphanage, Dylan conversing w/statue of Christ..

Allen and Peter and Dylan and hommages to Jack (as the Rolling Thunder tour passed through Lowell). Ken Regan, the official photographer took pictures of the scene in front of the grave, and of the tour.
(Sam Shepherd's Rolling Thunder Logbook and Larry "Ratso" Sloman's On The Road With Bob Dylan are the two (so far) essential written documentary records).
The documentation, the filmed documentation - 1978's Renaldo and Clara (now, see above, presently not available)

Here's Janet Maslin's contemporaneous New York Times review (following a brief theatrical showing).
Here's James Calamine's informative essay (bewailing its status as a "lost classic", "an obscure gem..buried in a vault", "Dylan's classic subterranean film") - "Bob Dylan's Renaldo and Clara - Asleep In The Tomb"

& from the sound-track:

Dylan (to Allen): Ever been to Chekhov's grave?
AG: No, but I've been to Mayakovsky's in Moscow. What graves have you seen?
Dylan: ..Er..Victor Hugo's grave..
AG: I used to haunt graveyards in Paris. I went to see Apollinaire's grave.. So [pointing to Kerouac's grave] that's what's gonna happen to you?
Dylan: No, I want to be in an unmarked grave.

As Calamine notes, "For faithful fans and scholars, this one scene (alone) redeems years spent searching for this rare film".

A second (fugitive) clip from the film, included here [still up - but for how long?] shows several of the company gathered together around a picnic table (as the sun sets (or rises?) behind them, picturesquely, on the water) - Idle banter ("I think I've lost my charisma". "No, here it is").
"I'll teach you how to meditate?", Allen offers - Surprisingly (?) the group takes him up on his suggestion - and ("Yeah yeah baby, go go baby/ bop shoo-wop, doo-wah diddy"), he and Peter lead them all in a spirited improvised chant:

The rumor that it (the whole, approximately 4-hour, movie) might be imminent on DVD (a rumor, we confess, we helped fan) seems to have been just that - it turns out - a rumor [see above - there are no plans that we know about for "official" DVD release] - here's the most recent denial in Variety (which informs us, in passing, of another book, Sid Griffin's Shelter From The Storm).

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