masked & anonymous (2003)


director: larry charles

bob dylan, john goodman, jeff bridges

Thereís probably some striking political conclusion you can draw from the fact that Masked & Anonymous, a remarkably strange film by any measure, got made, and has a cast thatís as impressive as the film is odd.

In some near-future America thatís being torn apart by a civil war, a group of desperate and doomed entertainment industry Boomers are trying to organize a benefit concert, but the only act they can book is Jack Fate, a singer so legendary that heís virtually unknown.

Bob Dylan plays Fate (now that's a loaded phrase, isn't it?), and the rest of the cast is filled out with famous oddballs (Bruce Dern, Val Kilmer, Mickey Rourke), current stars (Penelope Cruz, Luke Wilson, Jeff Bridges), respected pros (Angela Bassett, Ed Harris, John Goodman, Fred Ward, Jessica Lange, Giovanni Ribisi) and more (Christian Slater, Cheech Marin, Chris Penn).

The plot is rudimentary, but the filmís countless subplots and dialogue are fascinatingly bizarre, cobbled together from bits of Shakespeare, film noir, and a political paranoia thatís as deep as it is fervent.

A rock critic could lose themselves in Masked & Anonymous, which reads like a hallucinatory tour through Dylanís notoriously vague life and memory (the singer is confidently rumoured to have written the script under the pen-name Rene Fontaine), but a movie critic has no choice but to shake their head and call it a curiosity.