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Bob Dylan - No Direction Home
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The two-part film includes never-seen performance footage and interviews with artists and musicians whose lives intertwined with Dylans during that time. For the first time on camera, Dylan talks openly and extensively about this critical period in his career.
It's virtually impossible to approach No Direction Home without a cluster of fixed ideas. Who doesn't have their own private Dylan? The true excellence of Martin Scorsese's achievement lies in how his documentary shakes us free of our comfortable assumptions. In the process, it plays out on several levels at once, each taking shape as an unfailingly fascinating narrative. There is, of course, the central story of an individual genius staking out his artistic identity. But along with this Bildungsroman come other threads and contexts: most notably, the role of popular culture in postwar America, art's self-reliance versus its social responsibilities, and fans' complicity with the publicity machine in sustaining myths. All of these threads reinforce each other, together weaving the film's intricate texture.
Scorsese's 200-plus-minute focus on Dylan's earliest years allows for a portrayal of unprecedented depth, with multiple angles: a rich composite photo is the result. The main narrative has an epic quality: it moves from Dylan growing up in cold-war Minnesota through Greenwich Village coffeehouses and the Newport Folk Festival, climaxing in the controversial 1966 U.K. tour that crowned a period of unbridled and explosive creativity. In his transition from Robert Allen Zimmerman to Bob Dylan, we observe him concocting his impossible-to-describe, unique combination of the topical with the archaic, like an ancient oracle. Scorsese was able to access previously unseen footage from the Dylan archives, including performances, press conferences, and recording sessions. He also uses interviews with Dylan's friends, ex-friends, and fellow artists, and, intriguingly, with the notoriously reclusive Dylan himself (who looks back to provide glosses on the early years), fusing what could have turned into a tiresome series of digressions and tangents into a powerful whole as enlightening, eccentric, contradictory, and ultimately irreducible as its subject.
Some of the deeply personal bits remain unrevealed, but Dylan's preternatural self-assurance acquires a slightly self-deprecating, even comic edge via some of his reflective comments. Alongside the arrogance, we see touching moments of the young artist's reverence for Woody Guthrie and Johnny Cash. Joan Baez, in a poignant confessional mood, comes off well, and the late Allen Ginsberg is so seraphically charming he almost steals the show a few times. A crucial throughline is Dylan's hunger for recognition and ability to shape perceptions so that would be singled out as not just another dime-a-dozen folk singer. It's illuminating--particularly for those familiar with the artist's latter-day aloofness on stage--to see his reactions to audience booing in the wake of his "betrayal" in this fuller context. No Direction Home also makes clear--in a way that wasn't possible in D.A. Pennebaker's iconic Don't Look Back--how Dylan's ability to manipulate his persona always, at its core, protects the urge for expression: Dylan's ultimate mandate, as an artist, is never to be pinned down. As Scorsese masterfully shows, the myth around Dylan only grows bigger the more we discover about him. --Thomas May
DVD features: This two-disc set of Scorsese's full two-part documentary includes treats such as Dylan working on a song at his hotel during the UK tour as well as performing several songs as in concert or on TV.
More for the Dylanologist
No Direction Home: The Soundtrack
Chronicles: Volume One (paperback edition)
Bob Dylan Scrapbook
Don't Look Back
The Bob Dylan Bootleg Series
The Last Waltz
- Bob Dylan Performances:
- Blowin' in the Wind
- Girl of the North Country
- Man of Constant Sorrow
- Mr. Tambourine Man
- Love Minus Zero/No Limit
- Like a Rolling Stone
- One Too Many Mornings
- Other Features
- Unused promotion spot for "Positively 4th Street"
- "I Can't Leave Her Behind" - Work in progress in hotel room
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Top Customer Reviews
I've seen the complete No Direction Home Martin Scorsese documentary, upcoming on American Masters on PBS in a couple of weeks (9/26-27), and it's really great. I didn't realize that it includes extensive new interview footage with Bob Dylan himself, appearing in his most straightforward, seemingly normal role EVER -- even more than on the 60 Minutes interview with Ed Bradley -- normal enough almost to take him at his word on his extensive comments on particular songs, his background, incidents in his career, etc.
The film includes terrific interviews with dozens of key figures from Dylan's life and career, including Izzy Young, Harold Leventhal, Joan Baez, Paul Nelson, Bob Neuwirth, Al Kooper, Bruce Langhorne, Pete Seeger, Mark Spoelstra, Suze Rotolo , and fortunately, Allen Ginsberg and Dave Van Ronk when both of them were still around.
The film also includes a tremendous amount of vintage film clips, concert footage, and still photography, a lot of which I've never seen before -- and I think I have had access to most if not all of the unofficial stuff circulating from that era. It even includes footage from postwar Hibbing, as well as early recordings (some of which of course are reflected in the companion CD "soundtrack"). It includes a lot of Newport Folk festivals and "Eat the Document" era concert and incidental footage in the best quality I've ever seen or heard any of it, and a lot that I don't think was included in the original ETD.
The home DVD version also includes extensive full-song versions of concert songs that will not be screened on TV.
More important than all these parts, the sum total is a fascinating "interpretation" of how Robert Allen Zimmerman became Bob Dylan up through and including summer 1966, weaved subtly by master filmmaker Scorsese simply through vintage clips, interviews, and really smart editing. The way Scorsese handles the combination of interviews and songs reminds me of The Last Waltz, but he does an even better, more subtle (and more complex) job here.
I think it's as valuable a document that has ever been made about Bob Dylan -- as valuable as any book or biography, including Chronicles itself.
Now, if only Scorsese spent equal time and effort on 1966-2006, but I imagine that's not likely to happen.....
I've gotten some feedback already that Scorsese didn't originate this project and had nothing to do with the original footage, but of course that doesn't matter -- the point is he and/or his team organized it in a way that makes it a coherent narrative, and one with a particular point of view that has the imprimatur of Bob Dylan himself. For those who take issue with that, I suggest, as Dylan himself said all those years ago, eat the document.
The DVD's Dolby Digital 5.1 audio achieves reference quality. Images are TV-friendly full screen, with pleasing grays and medium contrasts. The video texture is amazingly consistent given the Babylon of sources.
The film's subtitle should be something like "Bob Dylan, 1960-65." Dylan acts as his own witness throughout -- at ease, clear, sometimes funny and seemingly pleased to take control of his legend. "I don't feel like I had a past," Dylan says, but the assembled evidence proves otherwise. Part 1 unspools much like a video companion to Dylan's vastly entertaining biography "Chronicles, Volume One," which covers his years on the Greenwich Village folk scene, the epicenter of American hip in the early 1960s.
"No Direction Home" becomes A Film By Martin Scorsese in its dark concluding act. Like "Mean Streets" and "GoodFellas," it captures the paranoia and disintegration as the central character's life implodes. The artist faced a far-flung confederacy of dunces, Scorsese shows us, over and over: moronic reporters, abusive audiences, uncomprehending music lovers, petulant folkies, teenagers who shrieked, fawned and grabbed. No one seems to have any sense except for Dylan and his in-crowd.
Dylan's songs play non-stop in that gorgeous DD audio, but there is little discussion, surprisingly, of the groundbreaking music he produced in the mid-'60s -- no recognition of the vast Baby Boom audience that heard the genius in his explorations and embraced them. No one testifies to the deep and immediate influence of "Highway 61 Revisited" on rock innovators up to and including John Lennon.
Still, it's easy and satisfying to buy into Scorsese's view of Dylan as underdog. The slant and subjectivity give "No Direction Home" much of its drama and depth, especially in the final hour. Bottom line: No one has made a better rock documentary.
"Bob Dylan is a private man who is notoriously camera shy. The TV interview he gave around the publication of his autobiography, Chronicles, last year was his first in two decades, so there was some surprise when Martin Scorsese announced he was making the definitive TV biopic with the man's full co-operation. It seems that in his sixties, Dylan - who has spent so much of his career laying false trails and telling downright lies about himself - has decided it's time to set the record straight and get his version of his life and times on the record, both in print and on film. And Scorsese, who directed The Last Waltz, the 1977 film about Dylan's former backing group, the Band, was the obvious man to do it.
Almost four hours long, No Direction Home deals only with the early part of Dylan's career, ending in 1966 and the tumultuous world tour on which he was booed by folk purists unable to accept his new-found rock'n'roll ways. It airs on BBC2 next month and is a riveting piece of film-making that draws on wonderful contemporary footage, much of it previously unseen, as well as revelatory new interviews. Scorsese and his team also turned up a treasure trove of unreleased music, which constitutes the latest volume in the 'official bootleg series' Dylan launched in 1991 to combat the pirates who have conferred on him the dubious honour of being the most bootlegged artist in history."
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Honoring HIbbing Minnesota was touching and appreciated by so many.