Both a classic documentary and a vital pop-cultural artifact, D.A. Pennebaker's portrait of Bob Dylan 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 legendarily private troubadour enables us to 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 measurement 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 (including five newly restored, complete audio tracks excised from the original film but included on the DVD version) 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
When acclaimed documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker (Monterey Pop, The War Room) filmed Bob Dylan during a three-week concert tour of England in the Spring of 1965, he had no idea he was about to create one of the most intimate glimpses of the rock legend ever put on film. Wanting to make more than just a concert film, Pennebaker decided to seek out both the public and private Bob Dylan. With unobtrusive equipment and rare access to the elusive performer, he achieved a fly-on-the-wall glimpse of one of the most influential musicians of all time and redefined filmmaking along the way.
Released on Blu-ray for the first time, this definitive set includes the classic film in high-definition, the 65 Revisited bonus disc which includes an hour-long behind-the-scenes look at Dylan and a new, never-before-seen interview of director D.A. Pennebaker by renowned rock critic Greil Marcus and the director. More than just a concert film, DONT LOOK BACK is a window into the spirit of the 60s, and one of the poet-musicians whose words and songs defined it.
Bonus Features: 65 Revisited Bonus Disc; Greil Marcus Interview with D.A. Pennebaker; Five Additional Uncut Audio Tracks; Commentary by D.A. Pennebaker and tour road manager Bob Neuwirth; Alternate Version of the Subterranean Homesick Blues Cue Card Sequence; Original Theatrical Trailer