DONT LOOK BACK – DVD review
Dont Look Back (1967)–****
2007 Deluxe Edition DVD Review
Here’s how film critic Roger Ebert starts out his 1998 review of Dont Look Back: “What a jerk Bob Dylan was in 1965. What an immature, self-important, inflated, cruel, shallow little creature, lacking in empathy and contemptuous of anyone who was not himself or his lackey. Did we actually once take this twirp (sic) as our folk god?”
Now here’s a quote from a 1967 Newsweek review: “Dont Look Back is really about fame and how it menaces art, about the press and how it categorizes, bowdlerizes, sterilizes, universalizes or conventionalizes an original like Dylan into something it can dimly understand.
I believe the Newsweek reviewer was talking about people like Roger Ebert, a journalist who in his 1968 review complained when Dylan taunted and teased reporters who deserved what they got. Of course, it would behoove any person who thinks like the Newsweek critic to watch theDont Look Back Deluxe Edition DVD extra 65 Revisited. Watching an hour’s worth of clips edited out of the original film, scenes of Dylan shopping and enjoying his status as an idol, lie in contrast to what we see in Dont Look Back.
You can’t blame director D.A. Pennebaker for his artistic editing. When he followed Dylan, Joan Baez and the rest of Dylan’s gang on the 1965 British tour, he produced the intimate portrait of a young, deservingly-arrogant artist dealing with fame. Had the “folk god” been seen as a bit of a prima donna, asking for pink ties to match his shirt, the film wouldn’t have made me want to exist in Dylan’s world. It also wouldn’t have made the film the cinematic milestone it is today.
It’s not overstating it, to call the Subterranean Homesick Blues video at the beginning of Dont Look Back iconic. It’s an often imitated cultural landmark, one that exists only if you see Dylan as an anti-pop star.
I believe it when I see Dylan act as if he would write music even if no one listened. The scenes inside of hotel rooms with his friends Alan Price, Baez and Bob Neuwirth are priceless insights into the world of an artist. Dylan seems at home there. The scenes of Dylan in the unnatural world of the concert hall are often cut short because he doesn’t belong. I found myself wandering when in 65 Revisited Dylan was shown performing complete songs from his concerts. He was singing while he slaved and just looked bored.
Regardless of what Ebert says, the scenes where Dylan is a twerp are worthy of being glorified. I don’t think you could expect someone living a life of fame at 24-years-old to act any other way. Look at the equally famous young stars of today. If there’s one thing we should complain about it’s not Dylan being a twerp; it’s that the twerps we pay to entertain us today are nowhere near as intelligent or iconic as Dylan.
Don’t Miss These Extras
65 Revisited documentary
Alternative take of Subterranean Homesick Blues video
Dont Look Back screenplay and photo book
Subterranean Homesick Blues flip book