Don’t Look Back: 65 Deluxe Tour Edition (DVD)

dontlookbackreview2.jpgWith Bob Dylan’s ‘Making Time’ having made several ‘Top Ten Albums of 2006’ lists, it seems fitting that this past December, Docurama released the ‘Bob Dylan: Don’t Look Back – 65 Tour Deluxe Edition’ DVD. D.A. Pennebaker’s landmark film is given the royal treatment in this two disc collector’s set, including the original cut of the 1965 film, plus an all-new hour long presentation that incorporates footage which never made the final cut.

I wouldn’t call myself the biggest Bob Dylan fan in the world, but any fan of modern music will realize that his influence is far reaching and can still be heard in music today. For those of us born in the late seventies/early eighties, we’re pretty accustomed to the older, less intelligible Dylan. A sort of caricature created by some bad, over-the-top impersonations. Perhaps this is what makes ‘Don’t Look Back’ stand out among so many ‘rockumentaries’. It’s a sincere and honest look at a man who’s become a major figure in rock history, but also a reminder that Dylan was as fun loving and human as any of his fans. The movie tracks his England concert tour in the spring of 1965, the last of his acoustic performances. He’s joined on the road by his good friend Joan Baez, who’s equally as talented, yet remains somewhat veiled under Dylan’s shadow, becoming just another observer of his skyrocketing fame. Early on in the film, the folk legend seems almost threatened by newcomer Donavon, half-jokingly obsessing over the new kid on the block as a sort of rival. It’s moments like this that separate Don’t Look Back from other films that feature subjects indulging in overly-confident posturing when in the presence of a camera.

dontlookbackreview3.jpg‘Don’t Look Back’s black and white photography stunningly compliments Pennebaker’s cinema verite style, viscerally expressing the urgency in, what at times, can be a pretty hectic lifestyle. As swarms of young fans envelop a post-performance Dylan’s vehicle, the camera crew tags along in the back seat, instantly turning an otherwise standard photo-journalistic paparazzi moment into a direct point of view of a star watching determined kids chasing down the cavalcade from inside the vehicle. It’s this sort of rare access that makes the film special. Dylan’s charm seems to shine with his fans, offering a pleasant and inviting demeanor to some nervous kids as they try their best to articulate their otherwise tongue-tied adoration. At times it seems his willingness to entertain his fans finds him in trouble, as in the only scene in which Dylan seems to lose his cool. Accused of smashing bottles in the street, he angrily, yet sensibly sorts out the controversy, confronting a drunken member of his party. His road manager, Albert Grossman, is also quite the interesting character. He sort of reminds me of a cross between film director Richard Donner and the dad from The Gremlins. At first he seems out of place among the younger jetsetters, but a scene in which he aggressively deals with hotel management proves he’s got a youthful spirit.

Docurama has put together a great set for this worthy double dip. Fans of the film will be delighted to hear that Don’t Look Back has been remastered and looks better then ever. The package even comes with a flip book, recreating the famed ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ opening sequence that has come to be known as the first music video in history. The brand new ’65 Revisited’ film is a nice companion piece to the original, and was put together by Pennebaker himself. Although the footage may be a little rough around the edges, it does provide some new insight into Dylan’s European adventure, and a look at some time he spent in New York City. This box set is a definite must for any fans of Dylan, or documentary filmmaking in general.

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