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Portrait of the artist as a young man. In spring, 1965, Bob Dylan, 23, a pixyish troubador, spends three weeks in England. Pennebaker's camera follows him from airport to hall, from hotel room to public house, from conversation to concert. Joan Baez and Donovan, among others, are on hand. It's the period when Dylan is shifting from acoustic to electric, a transition that not all fans, including Baez, applaud. From the opening sequence of Dylan holding up words to the soundtrack's "Subterranean Homesick Blues," Dylan is playful and enigmatic. Written by
Perhaps I'm biased -- Bob Dylan is quite possibly my favourite performing artist in the world. This very cinema-verite look at Dylan's 1965 tour of England offers both a serious justification of the man's genius and a very unflattering look at the costs and results of that genius. This was clearly not a happy time for Dylan, who rushes through most of the songs included here like a man who clearly wishes he were somewhere else. Not that the performances are poor (quite the contrary) but the heart and sincerity are quite obviously missing (note how "The Times they are a-Changin'" speeds up gradually but unmistakably throughout the film). The backstage material (the bulk of the film) shows Dylan being generally nasty to everyone around him, including Joan Baez (well, he's not nasty precisely, but he never really even acknowledges her presence), a newspaper reporter (the "science student") and basically anyone he comes in contact with.
In other words, this is not a portrait of the artist that I happen to like, but it is the truth (or at least it was at that time). In addition, Albert Grossman, Dylan's manager, is shown in possibly the least flattering light possible. A bonus is that the film begins with the brilliant 1965 promotional clip for "Subterranean Homesick Blues", and watch for the scene in a hotel room when Dylan and Bob Neuwirth sing "Lost Highway" - it's worth the price of admission.
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