I just saw a film on an a television channel that specializes in Independent, off beat, didn’t quite make it films. It was made in 2003 and is called Masked and Anonymous. I’d neither seen nor heard of it. It was directed, produced and written by Larry Charles, who penned the first five seasons of the Seinfield sitcom. Bob Dylan co-authored the script under the pseudonym “Sergei Petrov.” I have no idea why Dylan, who also was the central character and star, used a pseudonym.
According to Wikipedia the people’s encyclopedia, the film was funded by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and filmed in 20 days.
Despite the the obvious low priority and short shooting schedule, here is a partial list some of actors who have commanded millions for roles they’ve played, who signed on to work for union scale . The current Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG) daily rate, is $880; and the weekly rate is $3,280. Here are some you will probably recognize: John Goodman, Jeff Bridges, Penélope Cruz, Val Kilmer, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Lange, Luke Wilson, Angela Bassett, Bruce Dern, Cheech Marin, Ed Harris; Christian Slater and Fred Ward.
Let’s face it, the opportunity to work with a living legend like Bob Dylan doesn’t come along every day, even for stars to work for what was minimum wage to them, just to be a part of it.
Masked and Anonymous is set in an undated future world in which chaos and a dictatorial, third world type government reign. Dylan plays a washed up but legendary music icon, Jack Fate, who is obviously supposed to be Dylan himself. Fate is the estranged son of the the President/Dictator of the United States is in prison when the film begins.
Fate is sprung from prison by Uncle Sweetheart (John Goodman) — a shady concert promoter — to be featured in, a giant charity concert, with which the desperate promoter plans to pay off his own debts. Goodman’s character is being pursued by criminal types to whom he owes a lot of money. He. has described the concert as “something that will be bigger than Woodstock.”
It seems that this film is mostly a platform for Bob Dylan’s music, politics and philosophy, and that’s all right with me. Not an actor, the former Robert Zimmerman still manages to deliver his lines and voice-overs in an acceptable, though somewhat monotone voice and the actors working for scale seem to try no less harder than if they were starring in a film based on a Nobel Prize winning novel.
Goodman plays as the blowhard con man who will say anything to make the concert a success, is very believable; Val Kilmer gave an exceptional performance as a hippy-like prophet who loves animals and hates people; the always beautiful Jessica Lange, plays an aging former world famous actress, working as a go-between manager is superb as usual — implementing orders from the unidentified criminal syndicate bosses through Goodmans’s character, who must in turn persuade Fate to go along with the orders disguised as “requests;” Christian Slater is outstanding as a philosophical stagehand, watching and commenting on the often chaotic situation.
Last but not least, Mickey Rourke Plays, Edmund, a sort of foster brother to Dylan’s character, who says to the music legend at one point: “I’m the man your father always wanted you to be.”
I will not give a way any more of the rice paper thin plot or the ending. As an example of cinematic art, most critics gave it a violent thumbs down, but I’m not a cinematic critic. If you came of age in the sixties, saw Woodstock as an almost religious event — and especially if you are a Bob Dylan fan — you need to watch this film. I just ordered it on CD for a few dollars and I generally don’t collect films or CDs. It can also be downloaded directly for immediate viewing.
This film is worth seeing, especially if you fit the criteria of an aging Dylan fan who came of age in the 1960s, or a student of the music of that era. Here are a few quotes from Masked and Anonymous:
Uncle Sweetheart “As long as I keep talking, I know I’m still alive.”
Jack Fate: “ All of us in some way are trying to kill time. When it’s all said and done, time ends up killing us.”
Edmund: “There will be no more stupidity. There will be no more mistakes. It’s a new day. God help you all.”
Desk Clerk: “I do not belong to any political party, sir. I guess you could call me… a feminist.”
Bobby Cupid: “Jack …
let’s just disappear for a while, let’s go to the South Seas, let’s go where Gauguin went and just…” Uncle Sweetheart: “Gauguin was a stockbroker!”