The View From Here

Dylan tribute at the Vienna Film Festival

Michael Bonner

Bob Dylan is everywhere and nowhere here at the Viennale, Vienna’s annual film festival, where your Uncut reporter has spent another arduous week slurping free champagne and scoffing luxury cakes on your behalf. Dylan was invited as guest of honour but, of course, declined. All the same, hardcore fans have gorged on a wide selection of Dylan-themed films, photo exhibitions, talks and concerts. There is even a “Bob burger” on sale in one of the festival’s main cinemas.

In the Viennale’s main social hub, the Urania rooftop lounge bar, a trio of Austrian bands played a night of artfully scrambled Dylan covers on Monday. Meanwhile, cinemas across the city are hosting a big-screen Bobfest featuring Dont Look Back, No Direction Home, Eat The Document, Masked And Anonymous, I’m Not There and more - including rare promo videos plus Dylan’s two sullen, sulky screen tests for Andy Warhol.

Among the Bob-themed guests in Vienna this week have been long-time Band member Garth Hudson and veteran film-maker Murray Lerner, whose electrifying footage of Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival has appeared in various documentaries, most recently The Other Side Of The Mirror. Lerner tells Uncut his latest project is a series of documentaries profiling acts who played at the original Isle of Wight festival. The Moody Blues, Leonard Cohen and The Doors are his first three subjects.

New music documentaries are also a key strand at the Viennale, as ever. The no-frills monochrome concert film Sonic Youth: Sleeping Nights Awake is directed by Michael Albright, a former assistant to Albert Maysles of Gimme Shelter fame, with help from a teenage film-making project in Reno, Nevada. Also very impressive is The Night James Brown Saved Boston, a fascinating historical account of Brown’s emotionally and politically charged show the day after Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968, when riots shook most of America’s major cities.

Uncut can also recommend several fictional features from this year’s Viennale including Tony Manero, a bleak retro-thriller about a murderously obsessive John Travolta impersonator in the fascist police state of late 1970s Chile. Another indie drama worth looking out for is Good Bye Solo, a bittersweet tale of the friendship between a West African taxi driver and a suicidal older man in small-town Carolina. The latter is played by Red West, a member of Elvis Presley’s Memphis Mafia, making his impressive starring debut at the age of 71.

But my personal Viennale highlight was Saturday night’s double bill of teenage Euro-vampire thrillers. Shiver is a classic dark fairy tale about feral psycho-toddlers running wild in the wooded mountains of northern Spain. But even better is Let The Right One In, a terrific coming-of-age story about alienated kids, school bullies and 12-year-old bloodsuckers terrorising a snowbound housing estate in early 1980s Sweden. It's a classy and haunting piece of work, like Carrie meets The Virgin Suicides - almost good enough, in fact, to make up for Bob Dylan’s no-show in Vienna.

STEPHEN DALTON


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