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.
Perhaps the idea of the documentary didn’t fully come into mind during this production, as all of this footage feels like the participants have their guards up a little too much. Dylan especially seems to rebuke the camera at times, sometimes coming off as quite standoffish and inexplicably rude. This seems to be the persona he keeps up throughout the brief documentary, but there are moments where his true self (as well as other participants like Joan Baez) shines through and it’s not quite the same aloof mentality from the people on screen that we grew used to.
The strange thing about this film is not just how old it is but also how un-documentary like it feels. It really doesn’t have any kind of narrative throughout; it’s just watching a particular period in Dylan’s life as he tours. It’s interesting for that reason alone though; there is some really raw footage here and while it’s hard to tell if some or all of it is staged, it is still nevertheless a very interesting “documentary,” regardless if it really can be considered one or not. It’s really just a fly-on-the-wall type of approach, as there isn’t a lot of revelatory footage in this film but it’s the kind of stuff fans clamor for in an attempt to get to know their idol that much better.
This documentary is over forty years old at this point, but it still manages to be an entertaining production nonetheless. Chances are if you’re a Dylan fan you’re already well aware of this documentary…but if you aren’t, then you should at least check it out as it’s a Recommended outing to be sure.
This marks the first docuramafilms Blu-ray I’ve ever reviewed; generally I just get DVDs from them, but this is a nice two-disc Blu-ray/DVD set that fans will definitely enjoy. The original film is presented here in high definition though the footage is so old that even though it’s remastered to the best of their abilities it’s still pretty grainy, but the “65 Revisited” is still on a separate DVD-only disc. I’m willing to bet this is the same disc as previously released on DVD, but not owning it I can’t compare the two. Still, it’s a nice little set and one fans will definitely like to add to their collection.
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
It’s a pretty meaty set, though, again, I don’t think it differs much from the previous release. Still a Highly Recommended set if you want this one on Blu-ray, but I don’t think you’re going to get much of a performance boost considering the source quality and its age.
Bob Dylan: Don’t Look Back arrives on Blu-ray on April 26th.