Bob shows Intolerance

Well I’m back from Pordenone, with plenty of stories to tell, and all in good time there will be the Bioscope’s Pordenone daily diary for your delectation. But a week is a long time in ther world of silent movies, and much of interest has been happening. So we’ll be having a few quick-fire news items, starting off with what for me is the pick of the bunch.

Bob Dylan has revealed a novel opening act for his new tour – he is showing twenty minutes of D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance (1916), shown completely silent. At Dylan’s shows at Fort Lauderdale (6 October) and at the University of South Florida, Tampa (7 October), the opening two nights of the tour, the film played as the audience were finding their seats. The Bob Links site provides this startled reaction from ‘Tampa Steve’:

How many concerts have you been to where there was no pre-recorded music played before the show? None? Same here. How many have you been to where 20 minutes of a silent film (Intolerance, from 1916) was played (silently) before the show? None! Welcome to the current Bob Dylan tour. The usual pre-party atmosphere of a big arena filled with concertgoers was deftly subverted by this simple dashing of expectations. Then, at the appointed hour, the house lights dimmed and the band strode onto the stage. Dylan waited 5 seconds, then sauntered out, too. Classy! The USF Sun Dome was less than half full at the time.

Dylan then came on stage and played ‘Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat’, though on the first night it was ‘Rainy Day Women #12 & 35’, which perhaps offers a more obvious link to the film’s title (“Well, they’ll stone ya when you’re trying to be so good…”). Which section from Intolerance is being shown is not certain, the fans on the Dylan forums being unclear on this point so far, but presumably it’s the Babylon sequence.

Whether Dylan will continue to show this new reverence for silent film remains to be seen – he has long taken to dropping references to films in his song lyrics, but never as far back as the silents, so far as I know. However, he does have a personal connection of sorts to Intolerance. In 1997 he was the recipient of the annual Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, which was established by Lillian Gish (who plays The Eternal Mother in the film, of course) in her will to be awarded to “a man or woman who has made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind’s enjoyment and understanding of life.” There is a biography of Dylan and other details on the Gish site.