Monday, April 16, 2012

"Don't Look Back" with Bob Dylan - (1967) D.A. Pennebaker

This is the original, and best film, about Bob Dylan. It was directed by D. A. Pennebaker during the 1965 tour of England and Scotland. The film provides a very raw and realistic look at the artist as he performs, hangs out in the hotel room between concerts, and holds nightly court with the likes of Donovan and other various would be poets and hangers on. My favorite scene in this movie takes place in the hotel room. Dylan is haggling with someone over who the greatest contemporary poets are. Dylan rejects the other man's assertion about Dominic Behan being one of the greats; countering with his own admiration of Allen Ginsberg. Donovan, looking a bit embarrassed at Dylan's semi-drunken tirade, picks up his guitar and plays a song, immediately captivating all present. He then asks Dylan to play "It's All Over Now Baby Blue", which had just come out. Dylan obliges with a truncated, but very powerful, version of the song.

Dylan is constantly plagued by reporters asking really inane questions, and the film shows him as alternately drunken; and sharp witted; as he counters some of the most meaningless questions ever asked of an artist. "Do you care about your music?" is one such perfect example. His answer is at once rambling, sarcastic and biting.

The film also features Joan Baez in some of the performances, as well as in conversation, with Dylan. A rare look inside the world of Bob Dylan circa 1965, the film shows him in a near meltdown when someone tosses a beer bottle out of the hotel window, bringing the management, as well as the police, to the door of his hotel room. He is obnoxious, and bullying in his treatment of many of the people surrounding him. But, at other times his intellect shines brightly, underscoring the genius of his writing.

The movie sometimes appears in its entirety on You Tube, only to be taken down after a day or so, leaving only small bits from the film. It's been a while since I have seen it in the library, or even in the stores. So, you may have to order a copy if you really want to see this extraordinary film. Here is the 4 minute scene of Dylan arguing about poets, with Donovan breaking up the discussion by picking up his guitar to sing; which leads Dylan into "It's All Over Now Baby Blue";

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