A documentary filmed in Britain in 1965, following 'The Pasha of Protest' (Bob Dylan) on tour. Dylan, dressed in leathers and with slicked-back hair, stands out from the denim-clad groupies around him in this document of the times.
Both a classic documentary and a vital pop-cultural artefact, DA Pennebaker's portrait of Bob Dylan in Don't Look Back
captures the seminal singer-songwriter on the cusp of his transformation from folk prophet to rock trendsetter. Shot during Dylan's 1965 British concert tour, Don't Look Back
employs an edgy vérité
style that was, and is, a snug fit with the artist's own consciously rough-hewn persona. Its handheld black-and-white images and often-gritty London backdrops suggest cinematic extensions of the archetypal monochrome portraits that graced Dylan's career-making, early-60s album jackets.
Pennebaker's access to the famously private troubadour lets us witness Dylan's shifting moods as he performs, relaxes with his entourage (including then lover Joan Baez, road manager Bob Neuwirth and poker-faced manager Albert Grossman) and jousts with other musicians (notably Animals alumnus Alan Price and Scottish folksinger Donovan), fans and press. It's a measure of the filmmaker's acuity that the conversations are often as gripping as Dylan's solo performances. Grossman's machinations with British promoters, Baez's hip serenity, a grizzled British journalist's surrender to the fact of Dylan's artistry and the artist's own taunting dismissal of a clueless sycophant are all absorbing. With the exception of the studio recording of "Subterranean Homesick Blues", the live performances are constrained by crude audio gear. Their urgency, however, is timeless, as is Pennebaker's film, a legitimate cornerstone for any serious rock video collection. --Sam Sutherland
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