Sunday, July 15, 2018
Dont Look Back
Written, shot, edited, and directed by D.A. Pennebaker, Dont Look Back is a documentary film that chronicles Bob Dylan’s 1965 tour of Britain which would be the last tour he would do playing solely acoustic music before going electric. The film showcases the folk artist struggling with fame as well as questions about his authenticity as an artist as it shown in a raw, black-and-white style. The result is an engrossing and fascinating film from D.A. Pennebaker.
It’s the spring of 1965 in Britain as Bob Dylan is doing an eight-day tour as he’s accompanied by an entourage that include folk singer/then-girlfriend Joan Baez, road manager/friend Bob Neuwirth, and manager Albert Grossman. Joining his former Animals keyboardist Alan Price who had just left the band as they chat about music and ideas while Dylan is doing interviews with the press who are questioning about what his songs mean and all sorts of idiotic questions. It does play into Dylan’s disdain towards his growing fame just as he is changing his look that would include footage of him singing protest songs in Mississippi that is filmed by Ed Emshwiller that shows a young Dylan two years before being the prince of the folk music scene. The Dylan during this tour of Britain is often seen wearing sunglasses and black-leather shoes as well as being a bit more confrontational.
Much of D.A. Pennebaker’s direction is loose in the fact that he captures all of the chaos that goes on backstage, at a hotel room, whenever Dylan is being interviewed, and when he’s on the road riding on a train to a show. Even as there’s scenes that has Joan Baez singing a couple of songs in a hotel room while Dylan is typing something or Dylan watching Donovan perform in a hotel room following an argument over who threw glass on the floor. Pennebaker would often shoot something just as it is happening while he also films a scene of Grossman doing a deal to show how much he cared for Dylan during that time as they would part ways five years later. The usage of raw black-and-white film would give the film a stylistic look while Pennebaker’s editing also has style in the way he would shoot some of the performances with the usage of dissolves and jump-cuts in some of the scenes of Dylan being interviewed.
The performances are straightforward in its presentation with the climax being the shows Dylan played at the Royal Albert Hall in London as it would be this moment that would show Dylan ready to move on from playing folk music and get ready to take a step into a new path. The film’s opening scene is a music video for Subterranean Homesick Blues that has Dylan holding cue cards featuring the lyrics while Allen Ginsberg is in the background talking to someone as it play into this new phase that Dylan was to embark. Even if Pennebaker was unafraid to show Dylan in a bad light such as the scene of him confronting someone over broken glass or being mean to a journalist where it does show Dylan being arrogant in some ways as a front in how he tries to deal with this growing sense of stardom. The sound work of Jones Alk with concert sound by J. Robert Van Dyke does play into the way things sound with Van Dyke providing a nice approach to how Dylan sounded live in his performances.
Dont Look Back is a phenomenal film from D.A. Pennebaker. It’s a documentary that showcases a man’s ascent to stardom as well as coping with this stardom while on tour at a turning point in his career. It’s a film that fans of Bob Dylan must see as it’s also a film that does play into the looseness and style of documentary that captures this air of realism that is unfolding during the course of a tour as it is happening. In the end, Dont Look Back is a tremendous film from D.A. Pennebaker.
Related: Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars - No Direction Home - I'm Not There - Trouble No More
© thevoid99 2018