Rolling Thunder Revue appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 and o 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Footage shot in 1975/1976 came with the 1.33:1 dimensions, while modern day interviews used 1.78:1
A mix of archival material and recent elements, the image came with inevitable variations. For the most part, the newer clips showed solid quality, as they displayed fairly good sharpness.
Some discrepancies occurred, as a few clips felt a little on the soft side. Still, the modern interviews mostly brought appropriate accuracy, and the also lacked jaggies, moiré effects or source defects.
Definition also came across mostly well for the archival clips, though more inconsistency came with these tidbits. Still, they seemed largely accurate, though it depended on the nature of the old footage.
The shots of Dylan on stage demonstrated nice clarity most of the time, though lighting conditions impacted sharpness. Material not explicitly filmed for the 1970s Dylan project seemed uglier, but that was inevitable.
The 1970s Dylan clips lacked print flaws, and they showed a natural layer of grain. Plenty of defects plowed into the stuff not shot from the tour, but again, that was unavoidable.
Overall, colors looked pretty good. Both old and new material opted for a natural palette, and while the 1970s footage could lean a little brown, the hues still worked fine.
Blacks seemed fairly deep and dense, while shadows offered decent clarity. Given that most of the program came from worn film shot in the mid-1970s, this became a satisfying presentation.
As for the project’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it remained subdued most of the time and only came to life in any real way during live performances. Some of those seemed restrained, but they usually used the five channels in a broad, engaging manner.
This meant the forward channels dominated and brought a good sense of stereo imaging. The surrounds also contributed nice reinforcement and some unique instrumentation as well.
Audio quality also satisfied, with dialogue that came across as fairly natural and concise. Some of the circa 1970s footage could feel reedy, but the speech usually worked fine.
Effects became a minor component, as they only stemmed from the 1970s material and they remained in the background. This meant they lacked presence, but they didn’t need to do much given the project’s focus.
Of course, music became the most important facet of the mix, and these elements offered good breadth and impact. The vocals felt crisp and lively, while the instrumentation seemed warm and rich. All of this added up to a perfectly satisfying track for a program of this sort.
As we go to extras, a 2019 Interview with Director Martin Scorsese runs 16 minutes, 59 seconds. He discusses his approach to the project. This allows Scorsese to explain some of his unconventional choices, even if he doesn’t make a terribly compelling argument for his take on the material.
A 2020 Interview with Editor David Tedeschi lasts 11 minutes, 39 seconds and delivers his thoughts about cinematic influences and the editorial choices made for Revue. This becomes a fairly informative chat.
Next comes a 2020 Interview with Author Larry “Ratso” Sloman that fills 18 minutes, 46 seconds. The writer of On the Road With Bob Dylan - a book about the 1975-76 tour – Sloman covers his history with Dylan and memories of the “Revue”. We get a useful discussion here.
Three Additional Performances appear: “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” (12/4/75, Montreal Forum), “Romance in Durango” (11/20/75, Harvard Square Theatre), and “Tangled Up In Blue” (11/21/75, Boston Music Hall). These take up a total of 13 minutes, 48 seconds.
On one hand, I appreciate the inclusion of three more complete songs. However, the presentation leaves something to be desired, as the visuals come with a variety of defects and the audio only provides lossy Dolby stereo. Still, the clips add value to the package.
In addition to the film’s trailer, the disc concludes with a two-minute, 36-second Restoration Demonstration. Scorsese tells us about the work needed to bring the footage up to snuff. This feels self-serving but it offers a few worthwhile details.
The set also offers a booklet. It offers credits, photos, an essay from novelist Dana Spiotta, and text from Revue participants Sa Shepard, Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman. Expect an uncommonly strong booklet.
As a collection of live performances, Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story delights. As a documentary rife with fictionalized material, though, it becomes an overly clever mix of fact and fantasy. The Blu-ray brings generally good picture and audio as well as a decent mix of bonus materials. Expect an inconsistent “documentary”.