Dont Look Back Screen 14 articles

Dont Look Back

1967

Dont Look Back Poster
  • What comes through Dont Look Back is beyond dissembling. Jean-Luc Godard put it well when he said that Leacock was interesting when he dealt with Kennedy in Primary and boring when he dealt with Crump in The Chair. In this kind of cinema the subject is everything and the style nothing. Dont Look Back makes me want to fill in on Dylan's recordings, but not Pennebaker's movies.

  • The raw cinema verite look bears fruit only when its subject does, and as with Madonna's Truth or Dare (1991), the pretense of confidentiality is merely that. But the music is great, and the film would be memorable for its goofy, syncopated opening sequence alone (a quirky illustration of "Subterranean Homesick Blues").

  • The movie is only two minutes old when the song ends, and it’s already legendary. But the fly-on-the-wall footage that follows is every bit as memorable, alternating between Dylan performing (both onstage and behind the scenes) and Dylan sparring with fans and the British press. He was all of 24 years old, and at or near the height of his popularity (one could make a case for 1966 and Blonde On Blonde as the zenith); that we have such a candid record of his life at that moment is a true gift.

  • Unflinchingly real where other 1960s rock films dealt in fantasy, Dont Look Back is about more than music: its unvarnished presentation of press interviews, business negotiations, backstage nervousness, hotel-room camaraderie and the myriad sorts of people seeking some kind of personal validation from Dylan all give the film a directness that hasn't aged.

  • Like Picasso at his canvas filching authorship from Clouzot in Le Mystère Picasso, Dylan courses through like loose mercury, a capricious nightmare, inscrutable jester, brilliant artist. Pennebaker just has to man the zoom, adjust the focus, and try to keep up.

  • The concert footage of the young Dylan in his punky prime is electrifying, but the most fun comes from the privileged glimpses of his sadistic wit. Exhausted and literally sick of being analyzed, Dylan plays fearsome head games with a hapless Time reporter and a middle-aged interviewer, while folk-rocker Donovan drops by Dylan's room to play a wispy ballad for the gang—only to have his host smile coolly, ask for the guitar, then dash off a little something called "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue." See ya in hell, folkie.

  • Dylan’s resistance is his way of attempting to redefine the roles of not only the artist being interviewed but also the way in which journalism approaches the arts. This fractured relationship between “the artist” and society is Pennebaker’s central theme: accessible enough to make the film appeal even to non-Dylan fans, yet crucial enough to make the film resonate loudly forty-one years later.

  • Pennebaker later presents us with the film's strongest image: Bob Dylan staring into a mirror backstage, his guitar held up firmly by the strap over his shoulder. He appears to be fumbling with his shirt or his tie, trying to adjust something (what, exactly, is unclear). Dylan looks into the mirror for a long time, concentrating, searching for something he can't seem to find. It's as if he doesn't understand what he sees. That, to put it mildly, is the plain and simple truth.

  • Part of what makes Dont Look Back so incredible is that it might be the first public record of a celebrity openly, and with full knowledge of how his behavior might be received, acting like a complete jerk even when a camera is right there documenting his every movement for the world.

  • 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... 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.

  • A simple portrait of the artist at 23, the camera rolls without much intervention, and engages the viewer firmly as we march towards a final concert at the Royal Albert Hall without shying away from his negative traits. Dylan now claims he was acting throughout the film, but eloquently sums up the Pennebaker approach when he tells a Time magazine reporter “The truth is just a plain picture.”

  • Even with its director's occasional crudeness of touch, the film is unmistakably iconic stuff—a thorny document that simultaneously immortalizes and obfuscates its subject, which is about as appropriate a contradiction as one could imagine for Dylan's music.

  • Whether a vintage stag film or the first official rock bootleg, Dont Look Back circulates the illicit, the forbidden, and the secret through every shadowy, glorious off-kilter frame... Out of sync, prophetic, timeless: the film overrides stock retorts.

  • Dylan insisted this wasn't the whole story, and he's right—for that, see No Direction Home. But it's one of the great rock movies just by dropping the camera into a media frenzy, where a brilliant (and thus arrogant) 24 year old songwriter could be turned into a prophet, cash cow, tabloid celebrity, and detached rock star brat. All the contradictions are on display of an era where such faith was placed in pop music.

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