Don't Look Back

Bob Dylan

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, exposed as an honest and committed soul adrift in a sea of madness and adulation, is simply a compelling piece of film to watch. Shot in magnificent black and white, the DVD version features a treasure trove of extras. It includes never-seen-before scenes and footage, the original theatrical trailer, Dylan’s discography and commentary from Pennebaker and Dylan tour manager Bob Neuwirth. If you ever wanted to see Don't Look Back in all of its splendor, the DVD is the way to go.

In the spring of 1965, rock and roll was simmering into a mild role of respectability. The Beatles had already conquered the world the year before, 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 – the country that was exporting superstars to Dylan’s homeland – 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 examines every nook and cranny of the elusive superstar’s transformation from folk hero to 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.

~ Shawn Perry

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