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With: Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan, Richard Manuel, Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, John Lennon, Johnny Cash
Written by: n/a
Directed by: Bob Dylan
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 54
Date: 11/30/1972

Eat the Document (1971)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Protest Songs

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Eat the Document (1971) was meant to be an hour-long television special chronicling Bob Dylan's tour of England in 1966, but the TV executives took one look at it and shelved it. It's only been seen on the "underground" circuit ever since. It will be shown at the Roxie for three days only, February 18-20. The picture and sound are hideous, but the movie is a wonderful glimpse into a world long gone. (This was the period when Dylan went from being a solo folk singer to being fronted by an electric band, and many of his fans felt cheated.)

Eat the Document is brilliantly edited, taking all of the catch-as-catch-can footage of the tour and throwing it together in seemingly random order, messing around with the order of time. We see Dylan leaving his concert and denying fans autographs, and later we see him back at the concert.

Most scenes don't even have any dialogue. We just see Dylan and the band (then called the "Hawks" but later The Band) sitting around in hotel rooms or on trains. We see them jamming, and in one scene a very young-looking Johnny Cash sings with Dylan. John Lennon also shows up making jokes in the back of a taxi. In another scene, a member of the band jokingly tries to buy a teenage kid's girlfriend from him. We also see Dylan on stage. Although the sound is bad, and the songs are often cut off, we can still feel their energy. I'm not a Dylan fan, but I was caught up in his performances here.

Dylan fans should not miss Eat the Document. Others who are looking for a very unusual rock 'n' roll experience should give it a shot as well.

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