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Do Look Back
on October 1, 2015
Terrific tour document by D. A. Pennebaker, this 1965 effort captures Dylan behind the scenes transitioning from folk hero to urbane rock icon. (He had already recorded Bringing It All Back Home when he makes this tour of England.) Dylan is transfixing on stage and a petulant brat backstage, enabled by a sycophantic entourage including boorish manager Albert Grossman, an irritating Joan Baez (along for the ride expecting an invitation to perform with him. It never came.), and road manager/partner-in-cynicism Bob Neuwirth. They were young, hipper-than-thou, and stardom had gone to their heads. But what remains is the quality of Dylan's post folk acoustic songwriting and performance. Though Dylan would claim to be bored with performing solo at this point at this point, you wouldn't know it from his stage craft; steely and dramatic under one bold spotlight. Pennebaker scores brilliantly with the concert footage, though intentionally "not a concert film".
For a stark contrast of just how much Dylan's persona had changed in a brief 2 years, a 1963 clip of him earnestly singing Only A Pawn In Their game at a Voter's Registration Rally at a rural farm in Greenwood, Mississippi (filmed by another) is included.
As for the extras in this Deluxe set, the hefty price ($64.95) does not justify it. There is a book that includes a word for word transcript of the dialogue in the film, and a little flip book of the Subterranean Homesick Blues film clip. Though novel collector's items, I've yet to take either out of the box. The desirable feature is the extra disc called '65 Revised that contains additional performance and documentary footage. The extended performance footage is brilliant and the commentary track is highly informative; Pennebaker and Neuwirth discussing film technique and intent and Dylan's skill as a stage artist in hindsight. Neuwirth's role, though at first seeming to be simply a hanger on, of providing the fuel of wit and creative spark for Dylan, is not to be underestimated.
It's a 5 star film, given only 4 stars here for the bloated price of this particular edition. But check out Criterion's newer edition that includes '65 Revisited and a bunch of other special features for about a third of this price!