This epic is a mass amalgamation of three separate film-types that is, contrary to popular opinion, coherent and a unified whole. Bob Dylan is shown in concert, often masked, during the ... See full summary »
On October 16, 1992, an impressive and eclectic group of artists gathered at Madison Square Garden in New York City for the purpose of celebrating the music of Bob Dylan on occasion of his ... See full summary »
as a documentary it's decent; as a companion piece to No Direction Home it's fantastic material
For any Bob Dylan fan this is a must. One gets to see his progression from the new darling of the folk scene (elevated to the point of ultimate pretension by the line "He has his finger on the pulse of a generation") to breaking out the electric guitar for Maggie's Farm in 1965. It definitely helps to know what the circumstances were with Dylan's presence at the Newport Folk Festival over those three years when watching the film; if you go into it expecting the director Murray Lerner to spoon-feed multitudes of facts then you're bound to be let down. Only Joan Baez has a scene with some comments on Bob Dylan at the festival - the rest is just concert footage, with some sporadic bits for the announcer and shots and sounds of the audience or Dylan in a car surrounded by fans.
As for the songs themselves, they are what they are: it's Dylan in both his prime as a strong storyteller and folk singer and as a burgeoning rock star that got a lot of "pure" fans very angry. The argument can be made both ways with 1965: taken out of context the performance of Maggie's Farm is one of the most highly charged live rock songs ever recorded, taken in context it wasn't exactly the right time with such a picky crowd. It took guts on Dylan's end though, which is something that does come through consistently in the documentary. I mean this by what he sings about: his range is incredible when it comes to writing lyrics and relaying his stories and ideas, from Medgar Evers to his World War 3 Dream to Blowin' in the Wind, and then on to something traditional but powerful like Chimes of Freedom... leading all the way up to what many consider his masterpiece, Like a Rolling Stone. If nothing else, the performances are essential, even if the film overall works better alongside Scorsese's No Direction Home, which is, of course, the definitive Dylan doc.
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