Bob Dylan - Don't Look Back
This month, they re-released DA Pennebaker's documentary following Bob Dylan's 1965 tour of England. It captures a very young (23) Dylan at his peak. His peak of... Dylan. When not on stage, he seems to be a remarkably difficult person to deal with. Petulant is the word I am looking for. However, that could just be the editing, but I don't think it was. See, Dylan hated press and the patronizing questions to be fed to a numb public. It is for some of these scenes that make the movie magic. There is a scene where Dylan just tears into a Time reporter, and I can only imagine that poor guy quit that very evening.
Though Dylan took Pennebaker with him, and gave him all access... it is said that Dylan tried to block the film from being released. It isn't a flattering tale, but it is fascinating and revealing. The performances are amazing. Just a young Dylan with an acoustic guitar and a microphone playing for super polite English audiences, all in black and white. Dylan's girlfriend at the time tags along, the beautiful siren Joan Baez, and we get to hear her sing a dash too.
This movie was released on DVD years ago, but it wasn' an exciting transfer that used the powers of the DVD for good. Even as the biggest Dylan fan, it wasn't worth buying. Luckily, for me at least, is this grand re-issue. It is a 'box set' of the coolest packaging job ever. You get the original film, several extras, and an entire extra disc of left out performances. There must be about 20 uncut live hall performances that really showcase the songwriter. In addition, the screenplay of the film is included, and a flip book that shows Dylan going through the cue card motions of 'Subterranean Homesick Blues'.
I have to say I am extremely happy with this release. It is more than just great music from the original, but its packaged as a beautiful keepsake as well. As someone who collects everything up to 1965, this is one of the crown jewels of my collection. It is a perfect companion piece to 'No Direction Home'. I wonder why Dylan worked so hard to never let us behind the curtain, but we are finally there.
The film is all very stark. Single camera, black and white, and stereo audio. For a performance that is over 40 years old, though, it is preserved remarkably well. If you are big fan of young Dylan, this is a good buy. I would start with 'No Direction Home', though, and build from there. Know that they are both press peices that came from Dylan's camp. Though Dylan hated reporters and press, he was smart enough to have himself documented just in case.
I am reminded of a Dylan story from the 'Last Waltz'. Dylan said he would play, but absolutely no one could film his performance. Bill Graham and Marty Scorsesee very wisely ignored him and filmed anyway. They used the wise logic 'if Bob doesn't like it, we can cut it later'. They were right to do it. After Dylan watched the playback on performance he loved it, and allowed them to keep it in the film. Dylan is an enigma, a sly guy, and a great wit. I have been chasing him for almost 20 years now. So who is Bob Dylan? Is he that 'aw shucks, I'm not he voice of a generation'? I think the truth is closer to this. In 'No Direction Home' someone asks him if his songs are covers or originals (on Dylan's first disc, all songs but one were covers of 'traditionals'). Dylan gave the best and most telling answer. Dylan says "They'll all mine, now".