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.
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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.
Don't Look Back remains, incontrovertibly, a vital document of its time - the exporting of American culture somewhere between the time of Leave It to Beaver and the time of Charles Manson. An innocent time, but only so innocent. It seems odd to be watching something so enthusiastically analogue on a fancy Criterion Blu-ray. Like many geniuses, young Bob Dylan was an idiot in addition to being a genius.
Truly fascinating. A documentary that without being obvious paints a truly compelling portrait about the biggest troubadour of our time. Dylan uses contradictions to see through people's bullshit. Because it's not about them and what they want. It's about the music, the poetry, and what it can do for us.
"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
The artist as a young man. In this, Dylan is shown through a warts and all filter, letting us see the true brilliance of a poet and a musical genius, as well as an arrogant, frankly sometimes assholey young adult, so sure of himself and yet claiming not to know. It’s a fascinating doc that snapshots a time, place, and icon in his prime, painting a grainy black and white image of an era and it’s defining artist.