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Letter to Bob Dylan

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Filmmaker Robert Kramer (1939-1999) once remarked: ĎEverything Iíve ever wanted to say was sung by Bob Dylan.í Near the end of his life, he began to imagine a collaborative project with the singer-songwriter. A letter was sent, and never answered. When Paul McIsaac looked through the effects in Kramerís Paris studio apartment shortly after his death, he turned on the CD player: Time Out of Mind filled the room. Recently Kramerís daughter Keja found this letter on his computer; it is printed with her kind permission and that of his collaborator on the project, Bobby Buechler.


Thoughts

So much of the world has changed since those wonderful days talking to Robert about a Dylan movie. He would say that history was frozen then in some sort of playful moment that day. Even the serious among us could think about playing with fantasy. Today we are at a crossroad moment in history. Iím not sure if I can imagine how any of those Dylan movie thoughts translate to the present. Maybe Dylan still fits.

It was in the spring of 1998 ... Robert was in the southwest and I was in Berkeley. The plan was to meet a few days later in Baker, California. He said, ĎWhere do you want to meet?í I said, Ďat the thermometer ... at noon.í There was no agenda but to cruise the Mojave Desert in wildflower season. We drove and talked ... walked Zabriskie Point, Furnace Creek and the Red Cathedral. More than I really wanted to walk. We talked about lots of things ... making a movie together and ramblings. It was there, somewhere on one of those long straight roads that the idea of making a movie with Dylan came up. There was not much to say ... how do you reach him and what do you say? How do you avoid an agent, a middleman? It was very much in passing that the thoughts of this project came and went as drove for days ... in the funky Death Valley hotels and again in the glory of the Great Basin. Robert would draft a letter and I would figure out how to get it to Dylan. We passed it back and forth and then sent it through the back doors hoping it would get to Dylan unread by other strangers. The letter is what it is ... written very much the way Robert made movies ... ĎClear and vagueí, open ended with a dream in mind of telling a continuing life story Robert told in many ways ... one of them through film ... written to someone whose work Robert loved. I donít know if Dylan ever got the letter. It would have been a great movie. In some ways they were very much alike.

Bobby Buechler
Berkeley, California,
September 2004


Hello:

Iím from NYC. The 50ís were bad. I got reborn in the 60ís. I left the states at the end of the 70ís. Iíve been living around, mostly based in Paris, and I make movies.

Throughout this life youíve been one of the voices in my head. Weíve walked together through a history, for better or worse. I like Time Out of Mind a lot. Maybe you are talking about someone, her, but what I hear (my story) is that love gone wrong, or gone just the way itís gone, is Am*r*c*, the USA dream, is just us trying to navigate the river. Love sick.

Iíd like to make a movie with you. Not a movie about you, not a documentary or a report, but the two of us, make a movie together over a period of time: pieces of this and that, scenes you imagine and I imagine, try to piece something together that is as rich and varied, as clear and vague as the trip itself has been. A movie that works like a dream or a vision, large enough to put anything we want inside it, another kind of river.

I have no idea how to approach you. People say itís hard. Iím not comfortable with the star thing, and I donít know anything about it. Iím not going through your agent or writing a proposal or something like that. So all I can propose is the obvious: If youíd like to see some of my movies, I can arrange it. Or if youíd like to meet somewhere to talk, I can be there. Just let me know. Iíd do a lot to make this film happen, but I canít do the hollywood thing. Please understand, thereís no lack of respect or empathy here, itís just how it is, old dogs/new tricks, thereís no point in pretending.

Robert Kramer
Paris, France

 

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© Bobby Buechler and Keja Ho Kramer 2004. Cannot be reprinted without permission of the authors and editors of Rouge.
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