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Tarantula on Film

Tarantula on Film

To coincide with the exhibition Tarantula(s): Bob Dylan’s Novel Revisited at The Woody Guthrie Center, The Bob Dylan Archive will present a parallel series of films, including a rare public screening of Bob Dylan’s directorial debut Eat the Document (1972).

Attempting to capture the spirit, trace out the influences and provide insight into the writing of what is surely the most curious book ever written by a Nobel Prize winning writer, this series features short, experimental, works by the likes of Robert Frank, Red Grooms, Ken Jacobs, William S. Burroughs, readings by poets Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and unseen footage from The Bob Dylan Archive.

Program 3, Aug. 26. 2 p.m. at the Woody Guthrie Center Theater. The program is included with paid admission to the Center.

Blonde Cobra

Dir. Ken Jacobs, 1959-63, 33 mins.

An instant classic of the New York Underground, a film Dylan references in Chronicles, Ken Jacobs’s Blonde Cobra was artfully cobbled together from footage of performer Jack Smith filmed by Bob Fleischner for an intended horror movie comedy, and audio from a variety of sources, including an Astaire-Rogers musical, a children’s record, a crazed and poetic monologue by Smith, and snatches of live AM radio. Jacobs described Blonde Cobra as “a look in on an exploding life, on a man of imagination suffering pre-fashionable lower East Side deprivation and consumed with American 1950’s, 40’s, 30’s disgust.

Permian Strata

Dir. Bruce Conner, 1969, 4 minutes

Conner’s mordant gem discovers wonderfully strange and subversive subtexts at work within an obscure 1940s biblical film The Life of Paul: On The Road to Damascus. The films’s title and soundtrack (Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35”) come together to form a colossal pun or, in Conner’s words, “a bad joke movie”.

Butter Sculptor a.k.a Ms. Norma

Dir. Iowa Public TV, 1974, 4 minutes

In one of Tarantula’s more memorable chapters, famed butter sculptor ‘Snowplow Floater’ writes a searing letter addressed to his critics, chastising them for not understanding a thing about the art of butter sculpting or being able to keep up with his changes “. . . next week i just might decide to use cream cheese—and i really don’t care what you think of my experimenting. . . “ In this short profile produced by Iowa Public TV, Ms. Norma “Duffy” Lyon talks about her award winning butter cow (“. . .all 350 lbs of her. . .”) in a freeze locker at the 1974 Iowa State Fair.

Eat the Document

Dir. Bob Dylan, 1972, 52 minutes

If one was looking for a visual analog to Tarantula, Dylan’s first directorial effort fits the bill. An avant-garde “travelogue”, Eat the Document is a hallucinatory assemblage of 1966 tour footage shot by D.A. Pennebaker. Jagged and decentered, Dylan plays fast and loose with the rules of documentary filmmaking, intercutting concert performances and rehearsals with loosely “scripted” scenes. Neither fiction nor documentary, the film is something wholly other— a view of a cataclysmic moment in popular culture from inside the eye of the storm.