Remember the aggravated conflict between Steve McQueen and director John Sturges on Le Mans, the ’71 racing flick? It came down to Sturges wanting to tell a story about a race car driver…a story that would deliver some kind of emotional resonance for the audience…and McQueen wanting to make a boundary-pushing anti-movie about the racing experience. He didn’t want to invest in the usual strategies and beats — he wanted to immerse audiences in the reality of what big-time racing is really about…how it sounds and smells and makes the bones vibrate.
I’m going to take a wild guess and suppose that the reason that Going Electric has been “in development” for two years (longer?) is because of a similar creative conflict.
Somebody (you?) wants to fashion a semi-traditional musical drama set in the early to mid ’60s…a script with a solid three-act structure and the right kind of dialogue from the right characters and so on. Timothee Chalamet as Bob Dylan (this could be the best role he’s ever had), Anya Taylor Joy (as Joan Baez or Sarah Dylan?) and God-knows-who as Albert Grossman, Pete Seeger and the boys in The Band, etc.
And somebody else is saying “fuck all that…I don’t want a regular-ass popcorn movie that quote-unquote ‘tells the story’ of Bob Dylan’s musical journey between ’63 and ’65…I want a movie that feels and unfolds like ‘Murder Most Foul‘ except delivering a theme about birth rather than death and finality.
But the way to do this is to not try and fashion a traditional-feeling James Mangold film. If you make another Ford vs. Ferrari but with a story focused on Dylan vs. Folkies Who Don’t Like Electric, it’ll be a disaster.
I’m not saying don’t write a good script or don’t use it as a structural diagram or launchpoint, but you can’t make “a Mangold film”…you have to find your way into a different psychology and more of a Hoyte von Hoytema shooting style. You did quite well with Walk The Line, of course, but this is 2022 and the old Mangold ways have to give way to the new. (Or in this case to the “old”.)
Listen to me, you HE antagonist: The way to make this fucking movie is to just sink into the music, man, and shoot as the story evolves…make it feel like an acted-out Don’t Look Back…use the kind of raw, Dogma-like documentary approach that Lars Von Trier might have gone with if he’d shot Going Electric 15 or 20 years ago…make the kind of film that Luca Guadagnino or David O. Russell or Paul Greengrass might make if they were on a roll…something loose and jam-sessiony and semi-fragmented…find your way through it because you know where it’ll end up at the end so the pressure’s off.
Make a film about Dylan’s folk-to-electric transition that’s as good as Greengrass’s 9/11 movie.
To paraphrase Hal Holbrook‘s “Deep Throat,” just “follow the music.”
Rumors suggest that Anya Taylor-Joy will star alongside Timothée Chalamet in James Mangold’s Bob Dylan biopic, ‘GOING ELECTRIC’ pic.twitter.com/cb7D0NQeqb
— Cinema Solace (@solacecinema) August 12, 2022