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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
Several scenes in "Don't Look Back" were parodied, shot for shot, in Tim Robbins' film "Bob Roberts". These include the "Wife of the Sheriff of Nottingham" scene, and the segment in which Joan Baez is singing "Percy's Song" while Dylan composes on a typewriter in the background. In "Bob Roberts", Tim Robbin's is updating his investment portfolio on his computer while his lover sings about "Marching For Ourselves". Other unmistakable references include the "Subterranean Homesick Blues" parody and the motorcycle "accident". See more »
You know the audience that subscribe to TIME Magazine, the audience of people that want to know what's happening in the world week by week, the people that work during the day and can read it, its small, alright and it's concise and there's pictures in it, you know? It's a certain class of people, its a class of people that take the magazine seriously, I mean sure I can read it, you know, I read it , I get it on the airplanes but I don't take it seriously. If I want to find out anything, I'm ...
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This celebrated documentary chronicles Bob Dylan's 1965 tour of the United Kingdom in which he still plays a solo acoustic folk set; in fact, it takes care to touch briefly on his beginnings as a troubadour in Greenwich Village and socio-political gatherings. Even so, the film starts out with a pre-credits sequence showing in its entirety the iconic video of Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" which, of course, features famed beatnik writer Allen Ginsberg as a bemused onlooker. The song had been the opener of his ground-breaking album "Bringing It All Back Home" (although it was also known in some quarters by the name of the song itself) which signalled in no uncertain terms his change of pace in musical direction via a total embrace of the electric sound of Rock music.
Although Dylan went to England just as Beatlemania had peaked, he does not get to meet them here although the band are announced as being in the audience of one of his concerts; incidentally, his notoriously hazy meeting with John Lennon in a taxicab would be ever so briefly captured for posterity in Dylan's own ragged follow-up film, EAT THE DOCUMENT (1972) which, while also shot by Pennebaker the following year, was compiled by Dylan himself and one Howard Alk (who is his right hand-man throughout DON'T LOOK BACK itself). Indeed, Dylan who is accompanied by his heavy-set bespectacled manager Albert Grossman and fellow folk icon Joan Baez is here seen seeking out the company of such British 'rivals' as Alan Price (who had just left The Animals at the time; lest we forget, the band's biggest hit, "House Of The Rising Sun", had previously been recorded by Dylan himself on his 1962 self-titled debut album) and Donovan who were, likewise, talented musicians struggling to reach further out into the Pop world. Dylan is often heard being cynical of Donovan beforehand but their eventual meeting in the former's dressing-room where he regales the Scotsman with a rendition of "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" (the closing track from the aforementioned "Bringing It All Back Home" album) is one of the highlights of the film.
Other memorable sequences show Dylan composing on a typewriter(!) in his hotel room as Joan Baez is propped up nearby singing on a sofa and strumming a guitar; Grossman negotiating Dylan's upcoming TV appearances with a local promoter; Dylan going apeshit when an inebriated local throws something out of his hotel room window and Dylan's entourage get blamed for the ensuing fracas!; Dylan arguing about his enigmatic persona with a skeptical interviewer; and doing the reverse with a nerdy layman fan who keeps following him around (aided by the occasional sarcastic interjection from Alan Price)! The film is eventually capped by an unforgettable closing line and image: "Give the anarchist a cigarette" uttered by a shade-wearing Dylan as he looks out the window of his travelling car at English nightlife.
The title of the film instantly reminds one of a lyric in Dylan's contemporaneous song, "She Belongs To Me" (the second track off of the "Bringing It All Back Home" album) but, according to Pennebaker himself, the similarity was purely coincidental! Regrettably, the film never shows the live performances or press conferences in their entirety but the snippets shown of both work remarkably well in 'explaining' to uninitiated viewers (and almost half-a-century later at this juncture) the sheer magnitude of Dylan's music and personality at that point in his career when, it must be said, he was all of 23 years old! DON'T LOOK BACK has been released as a "Special Edition DVD" but I actually acquired it via a hardsubbed Italian TV transmission, recorded as a double-feature with Jim Jarmusch's Neil Young concert feature, YEAR OF THE HORSE (1997)!
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