Don't Look Back

1967, Movie, NR, 96 mins


Caught on the brink of his transformation from folk singer to rock idol, the 24-year-old Bob Dylan glides through D.A. Pennebaker's classic documentary, the pale, slightly chilly calm at the center of a media whirlwind. Shot during Dylan's 1965 English tour, the film offers glimpses of fellow musicians Joan Baez, Alan Price and Donovan, but it's Dylan's show all the way, whether pitching a fit at the rowdy hangers-on who fill his hotel suite or delivering performances of "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," "The Times They Are a-Changin'" and "It's all Right Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" so direct and unaffected that they sends chills down the spine. Pennebaker's most striking achievement is having captured the contrast between Dylan's easy, sweetly intimate stage persona and his tightly wound, closed-off backstage self. Dylan is by no means a monster offstage, but he's tart-tongued, antagonistic and startlingly defensive. Sure, it's funny to see him deflate a string of rather pompous British journalists, but there's a hectoring quality to Dylan's refusal to answer questions that leaves a sour aftertaste: They're clueless, but he's mean. The film's greatest incidental pleasures are images of a time when outlaw musicians wore suit jackets and the craggy Dylan was a delicate, unconventionally handsome young man. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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