It may be light on Scorsese's "auteur stamp", but even if all he did was arrange a breathtaking amount of footage, it's an outstanding achievement and one of the best rock documentaries ever made. It may be the best explanation of Dylan anyone could hope for, seeing as it explains how Dylan is unexplainable—a brilliant, slippery artist who got received (unwillingly) as a prophet by a generation that wanted answers.
This is a feast for any Bob Dylan fan like I am. The film covers a lot about the early years of the poet's career as well as painting a great portrait of the folk scene of the 50's and 60's by found footage and interviews. It also points to interesting parallels between the artist and his place among society and the fact that some people thought they have some kind of control over the musician and his music.
Want to feel like a small, insignificant, piece of nothing? Watch this....twice. Debate are debates, opinions are opinions, but Dylan's stretch of work from 1963 to 1968 will never, ever, be close to being equaled in popular music. That's just a simple fact.
Seems pretty standard fare as far as documentaries go. A lot of the talking head interview with current-day Dylan is even terribly out of focus!... But the content is just too damn interesting to ignore. The last 20 minutes alone is enough to push this into 4 stars; that's what we came here for, Marty, to see Dylan in his time, being loved and hated and worshiped and rebuked...and how he didn't ask for any of it.
Exhausting inquiry into a brief, complex, sequence of the 60's counterculture. It is entirely personified in a rising folk star with his compelling lyricism and even more compelling motives, all of which equally unwraps and obscures the protest aura of that time, as well as his own persona. The amount of footage looks like someone's life work, and unobtrusive editing treats it with respect.
How do you make a documentary about Dylan or the Beatles at this point? Everything about them and the 60s has been covered ad nauseam. Scorsese manages this by not doing a straight forward narrative or chronological parade of talking heads. He moves back and forth across time, picking up themes and threads and weaving them together. As such, it resembles a good Dylan song in that it is not always explicit or direct.