Don't Look Back:
The 65 Tour Deluxe Edition
Don't Look Back is one of the most important and influential movies to ever document the rock and roll experience. D.A. Pennebaker’s ominous telling of a very young and feisty Bob Dylan during his 1985 tour of England, exposed as an honest and committed soul adrift in a sea of madness and adulation, is a spectacular piece of cinema. Shot in magnificent black and white, Don't Look Back has been re-released on DVD in two formats. There’s a single disc version featuring the original film and a few bonuses that were already on the DVD the first time around. And then there’s the 65 Tour Deluxe Edition which also features the film, a second disc, and a couple of books. If you dig Dylan, this is the one you want.
In the mid 60s, rock and roll was simmering into a mild role of respectability. By this time, the Beatles had conquered the world, and a feeding frenzy in both America and Britain was in full bloom. Bob Dylan was merely standing in the wings, waiting his turn. He’d already turned the Fab Four onto pot. The Byrds were exposing the rockin’ durability of Dylan’s songs. It was simply up to the man himself to embrace the opportunity and take care of some unfinished business. England — in the midst of exporting superstars to the States — seemed ripe for the taking. Pennebaker was there to take in every moment. From intimate interludes and banter with Joan Baez, the Animal’s Alan Price, and Dylan’s British counterpart, Donovan — to the stark, emotionally charged performances, Don't Look Back captures every nook and molecular cranny of the elusive superstar’s transformation from folk hero into rock icon.
Pennebaker’s handheld camera work makes you feel like you’re witnessing history, first-hand. And who could forget the famous, overly copied cue-card music video for "Subterranean Homesick Blues." This clip alone confirms that music and film as a cohesive form was something that could make a strong impact. Of course, that whole idea sort of took a backseat to the commercial possibilities that MTV tapped into 16 years later. Somehow, the message got lost in the translation – something with which Dylan is all too familiar.
The 65 Tour Deluxe Edition is a treasure trove of extras. Along with the original film, the first disc includes commentary from Pennebaker and tour road manager Bob Neuwirth (who has a big role in the film), five additional audio tracks, an alternate of the "Subterranean Homesick Blues" cue-card sequence, the original theatrical trailer, Pennebaker’s filmography, Dylan’s discography, and assorted cast and crew biographies. Whew!
The second disc features an entirely new film...kinda. Entitled Bob Dylan 65 Revisited, Pennebaker drew random segments from over 20 hours of never-before-seen footage — apparently leftovers from Don’t Look Back. It boils down to extended scenes of Dylan playing in his hotel room, sometimes with Joan Baez, Dylan talking to fans, Dylan riding in cars, Dylan backstage, Dylan on stage, Dylan talking in circles around the press, Dylan essentially getting off on being Dylan. At one point, a fan standing next to the singer outside an English venue is searching for words in a valid attempt to avoid an uncomfortable silence. He suddenly blurts out: “I don’t know what to say.” To which Dylan sluggishly replies: “Me neither.”
The books are packed in customized compartments within the sturdy cardboard packaging. The first one is a 168-page companion book with a complete transcription of the film, over 200 photos, and a new forward by Pennebaker. Handily tucked in below the first disc is the second book, which is like a tiny novelty paperback you’d purchase for $3.50 at Disneyland. In reality, it’s a collectible "Subterranean Homesick Blues" flipbook. I spent hours clumsily flipping the pages from front to back, then back to front, with no direction home. Yes indeed, the Dylan swag just keeps on coming. And like the bard himself, it only seems to be getting better and more elaborate.
~ Shawn Perry