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. –amazon
One of the founding fathers of “direct cinema”, American filmmaker’s adopted name of choice for “cinema verite”, and perhaps its best known practitioner during the 1960s and early 70s, Pennebaker helped construct a style of storytelling and an attitude toward his subjects (often political figures or entertainers) that influenced a generation of nonfiction filmmakers. He is a proponent of a cinema which favors the filming reality in as unobtrusive a manner as possible, usually without narration.
This former engineer, advertising copywriter and painter began making films in the early 50s after falling under the influence of experimental filmmaker Francis Thompson. Pennebaker’s first film, “Daybreak Express” (1953), combined his documentary and experimental impulses in a five-minute portrait of the soon-to-be-demolished Third Avenue elevated subway in NYC set to Duke Ellington’s music. Pennebaker later established himself as a member of Drew Associates, which included major documentarians… read more
"It was documented from his personal point of view. The movie was dishonest, it was a propaganda movie. I don't think it was accurate at all in terms of showing my formative years. It showed only one side. He made it seem like I wasn't doing anything but living in hotel rooms, playing the typewriter and holding press conferences for journalists." - Bob Dylan
“Don’t Look Back was…somebody else’s movie. It was a deal worked out with a film company, but I didn’t really play any part in it. When I saw it in a moviehouse. I was shocked at what had been done… read review