By Larry Fyffe
‘Drifting Too Far From Shore’ is a masterpiece of sarcasm, and a murder ballad to boot.
Movies impact how Bob Dylan writes his songs; he’ll take on the persona of one or more characters from famous films.
In the ‘Ace In The Hole’ movie, Kirk Douglas plays a hard-hearted reporter who seizes the opportunity to make lots of cash by cynically dwelling on the ‘human interest” aspects of the plight of an entombed individual named Leo Minosa, and sending the stories off to major newspapers.
Chuck Tatum’s goal is to attract a wide readership and a large crowd of paying customers to the site of the cave-in.
He meets his match – Leo’s wife. Lorraine’s willing to go along with the devilish scheme, but finds it difficult to play the part of a sweet wife; she’s not satisfied with the marriage, it’s boring.
No servile servant to Leo is she willing to be. Lorraine was going to leave town, but now has the chance to make some big bucks before she takes off on the bus. She’s an Eve archetype who’s bitten into Satan’s apple, and sees no problem tempting Adam with it.
The New Adam of the New Babylon is the movie’s unscrupulous reporter. He’s angry at Eve because she sees right through him. He makes sure that she knows he’s upset by asserting his physical prowess. He scares Lorraine, smacks her, to show he’s rightfully the boss at top of the hill, and it is he who is to be obeyed, not betrayed.
The sassy reporter also brags that he’s made sure, with the help of the corrupt local sheriff, that he’s in charge of the news-boat while other reporters flounder in the water.
Lorraine he’s concerned about. It’s she who could ruin the whole scene by drifting too far away from the biblical tale about paradise being regained in small-town New Mexico when Leo returns.
Take what you gather from coincidence:
Never no more do I wonder Why you don't never play with me anymore At any moment you could go under 'Cause you're drifting too far from shore (Bob Dylan: Drifting Too Far From Shore)
The following verse of the song lyrics could easily be inserted at the end of ‘Ace In The Hole’, a dark morality tale:
You and me had completeness I gave you all of what I could provide We weren't on the wrong side, sweetness We were the wrong side (Bob Dylan: Drifting Too Far From Shore)
In the movie, Chuck receives a phone call from New York City. It’s his old boss, a sensationalist newspaperman, and the cave-side scriptwriter now has his old boss over a barrel, demands a big raise, and his old job back; gets both. But not before the big-city man (like small-town Lorraine does) attempts to out-sass the smart-ass:
"Come on, Tatum. How much for the Minosa story? Exclusive! What? Don't you know there's a war on - somewhere" (Ace In The Hole)
Similar to the sarcasm below that could just as well been hurled by ‘auteur’ Tatum at Lorraine for not properly emoting the words that he authors:
I've already ripped out the phones, honey You can't walk the streets in a war I can finish this alone, honey You're drifting too far from shore (Bob Dylan: Drifting Too Far From Shore)
In the aforementioned movie, Leo’s father insists that the reporter take his and Mama’s comfortable room because he believes Chuck is sincerely doing all he can in an effort to save his son. Even brave enough to crawl into the dangerous tunnel to communicate with Leo.
Chuck’s not about to flirt with Leo’s supposed-to-be devoted servant Lorraine, for now anyway, because kind-hearted Papa Minosa is impressed by the reporter’s efforts; the sincere Christian treats Chuck like a son.
In the lyrics below the narrator thereof, similar to Chuck in the movie, makes himself out to be real tough, and at the same time, a real gentleman:
I ain't gonna get lost in this current I don't like playing cat and mouse No gentleman likes making love to a servant Especially when he's in his father's house (Bob Dylan: Drifting Too Far From Shore)
In the end, the Devil has the last laugh.
Lorraine survives; Chuck dies.
Perhaps he leaves a love letter for Lorraine (quoting from the James Stewart movie ‘Bend Of The River’):
I didn't know that you'd be leaving Or who you thought you were talking to I figured maybe we're even Or maybe I'm one up on you (Bob Dylan: Drifting Too Far From Shore)
The reporter in ‘Ace In The Hole’ realizes that, intended or not, he’s responsible for the death of Lorraine’s husband – as far as Chuck is concerned, he “murdered” Leo; might as well have hit him over the head with a stone.