Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back – The Criterion Collection #786 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
November 27, 2015 by Dennis Amith
D.A. Pennebaker has made fantastic documentaries which have stood strong against time and appreciated for its content. The same can be said about “Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back” in the sense that you get that rare view of mid-60s Bob Dylan in his element and just be in awe of his persona and his dedication to his music. “Dont Look Back” is one of the best music documentaries ever made and no matter how many decades have passed by since this film’s theatrical release, it remains to this day an awesome musical documentary worth watching!
Image courtesy of © 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back – The Criterion Collection #786
YEAR OF FILM: 1967
DURATION: 96 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, black and white, 1:37:1 aspect ratio, Monaural, Subtitles: English SDH
COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION
RELEASE DATE: November 24, 2015
Directed by D.A. Pennebaker
Written by D.A. Pennebaker
Produced by Carlos Ponti
Music by Armando Trovajoli
Cinematography by Pasqualino De Santis
Edited by Raimondo Crociani
Production Design by Luciano Ricceri
Set Decoration by Luciano Ricceri
Costume Design by Enrico Sabbatini
Bob Dylan is captured on-screen as he never would be again in this groundbreaking film from D. A. Pennebaker (Monterey Pop, Company). The legendary documentarian finds Dylan in London during his 1965 tour, which would be his last as an acoustic artist and marked a turning point in his career. In this wildly entertaining vision of one of the twentieth century’s greatest artists thrust into the spotlight, Dylan is surrounded by teen fans; gets into heated philosophical jousts with journalists; and kicks back with fellow musicians Joan Baez, Donovan, and Alan Price. Featuring some of Dylan’s most famous songs, including “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” and “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” Dont Look Back is a radically conceived and shot portrait of an American icon that has influenced decades of vérité behind-the-scenes documentaries.
Bob Dylan, the famous singer, songwriter, musician and artist is one of the best selling artists of all time. Back in the ’60s, his work and his popularity was at an all-time high despite others trying to pigeon-hole the artist as a folk singer, in truth, Bob Dylan was a man who did whatever he wanted to do and was very much a freewheeling artist who did music his way, no matter how many peopled supported or criticized his work.
D.A. Pennebaker is a documentary filmmaker who is known for his work such as “Monterey Pop” in the 1968 and the Depeche Mode ’80s documentary “101”. But also non-music documentaries such as “The War Room” following Arkansas governor Bill Clinton’s run for the presidency.
But the film that would expose Pennebaker’s work to an international audience was his 1967 documentary “Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back” (the lack of an apostrophe in “don’t” is intentional, as was the typographical errors during the opening cuecard sequence), considered as one of the greatest music documentaries of all time, but also featured Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” sequence, which is considered to be the precursor to music videos.
The film was included in the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry in 1998 as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and has been voted as one of the top documentaries of all time.
And the film will now be released on Blu-ray courtesy of the Criterion Collection.
“Don’t Look Back” features Bob Dylan during his 1965 concert tour in England. Giving people a chance to see how Bob Dylan was during the tour, during his interviews with Time Magazine’s London art and science correspondent Horace Freeland Judson, Dylan talking with the Animals Alan Price of why he left the group?, Dylan with then girlfriend, music artist Joan Baez, creating music in a hotel room, Dylan having a discussion with “science student” Terry Ellis (who would one day become the co-founder of Chrysalis Records). Dylan’s feelings towards Donovan and performing “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” after Donovan’s performance of “To Sing for You”.
“Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back – The Criterion Collection #786” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:37:1 aspect ratio). The film is presented in black and white and the Criterion Collection Blu-ray release features much better sharpness, clarity and also a good amount of grain. I didn’t notice any major aging or any dirt or debris while watching the film.
According to the Criterion Collection, “this new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a Lasergraphics Director film scanner from the 16 mm A/B original negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise management, jitter and flicker”
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
As for the lossless audio, “Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back – The Criterion Collection #786”. The film is presented in English LPCM 1.0. Dialogue and music are crystal clear.
According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the original quarter-inch magnetic masters. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation and iZotope RX 4”
Subtitles are in English SDH.
“Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back – The Criterion Collection #786” comes with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary – Featuring a 1999 audio commentary by director D. A. Pennebaker and artist Bob Neuwirth.
- Dylan on Dont look Back – (9:55) A 2000 interview with Bob Dylan about “Dont Look Back”.
- 65 Revisited – (1:05:28) Outtakes from “Dont Look Back” that were not used in the final cut of the film.
- Greil Marcus and D.A. Pennebaker – (17:49) A conversation between music journals and cultural critic Greil Marcus and director D.A. Pennebaker.
- “Subterranean Homesick Blues” (Alternative Take) – The third alternative take of “Subterranean Homesick Blues”.
- Additional Audio Performances – Featuring five live performances record by Robert Van Dyke during Bob Dylan’s 1965 tour not featured in the final version of “Don’t Look Back” – “It Ain’t Me”, “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”, “Love Minus Zero/No Limit”, “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”, “To Ramona”.
- D.A. Pennebaker: A Look Back – D.A. Pennebaker’s early documentaries: “It Stars With Music” (featuring a documentary with director D.A. Pennebaker, Jim Desmond, Nick Doob and Chris Hegedus) (29:06), “Daybreak Express” (5:25), “Baby” (6:00) and “Lambert & Co.” (13:44).
- D.A. Pennebaker and Bob Neuwirth – (33:58) Featuring a discussion between director D.A. Pennebaker and Bob Dylan’s tour manager, Bob Neuwirth.
- Snapshots from the Tour – (26:04) Even more footage of Bob Dylan and friends not used in the final cut.
- Patti Smith – (13:58) A 2015 interview as Musician Patti Smith talks about Bob Dylan, working with Bob Neuwirth and meeting Bob Dylan for the first time.
- Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back”.
“Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back – The Criterion Collection #786” comes with a 40-page booklet with the essay “Everybody Loves You For Your Black Eye” by Robert Polito.
I am a fan of Bob Dylan’s music. While most people I know are blasting Kanye, Maroon 5, Taylor Swift and whoever is popular on the charts, I’m still listening to Bob Dylan’s “Another Side of Bob Dylan”, “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” and “Highway 61 Revisited” on repeat constantly.
I am also a big fan of the work of D.A. Pennebaker, who’s work I was introduced to through Depeche Mode’s “101”, which was one of the most amazing music documentaries I have ever watched as an older teen.
And while I enjoyed “Monterey Pop” and “The War Room”, one music documentary I have watched dozens of times is “Dont look Back”. But then, it’s not a documentary in the sense that people probably were expecting back then, clips with interviews with Dylan and friends. With “101”, D.A. Pennebaker showcases behind-the-scenes footage, concert footage but interviews as well.
The interviews by Pennebaker are something people won’t be seeing in “Dont Look Back” and I’m not surprised. Considering that he’s focused on music and could care less of being subjected to the camera, Dylan’s involvement is due to the cajoling of his road manager, Rob Neuwirth.
But for those wanting something deep in terms of coverage of the singer/songwriter/musician, this is not a deep film. In fact, the music documentary was not well-received by critics, but it’s those watching it years later and witnessing the genius of Bob Dylan coming up with songs on the fly, constantly focused on his work, typing his lyrics, playing guitar, playing piano and often creating new music. But we also see Dylan feeling a bit of anxiety before a performance and being electric on stage as a light switched was turned on and he delivers wonderful performances.
And who can ever forget the performance of Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” right after Donovan pleases people in the room with “To Sing for You”.
This film is fantastic because it showcases Bob Dylan in various states of mind but always managing to keep things cool. Even with a small drunken blowout after someone threw a glass on top of a limousine in the film, Bob Dylan keeps it cool. Whenever he meets fans or journalists, he keeps it cool with short bursts of what you might think he is ticked off, in reality, he’s calm and keeps his focus on the music.
Of course, it’s also enjoyable to watch a young Joan Baez in the film, singing a long with Dylan when the two were together (and sometime during this tour, the two broke up) and you obviously notice signs that things weren’t as peachy between the two during the film.
But when I watch this film over and over, and still don’t grow tired of it. I see Bob Dylan on camera…and I think superstar status right here. This guy is passionate about his music, his work and it’s quite inspiring. I don’t think there is anyone like him or anyone comparable in musical talent and all-out aura. Bob Dylan is pure musical genius and watching him in “Dont Look Back” is just beyond awesome. This is not an act, this is cool and stoic, Bob Dylan.
As for the Criterion Collection Blu-ray release, this Blu-ray is awesome in terms of the content included. You get the outtakes, the three versions of “Subterranean Homesick Blues” cue card sequence, five audio recordings of Dylan songs not used in the film, recent interviews with Pennebaker, audio commentary, a 2000 interview with Bob Dylan, a documentary about the evolution of Pennebaker’s filming style and so much more!
Overall, D.A. Pennebaker has made fantastic documentaries which have stood strong against time and appreciated for its content. The same can be said about “Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back” in the sense that you get that rare view of mid-60s Bob Dylan in his element and just be in awe of his persona and his dedication to his music. “Dont Look Back” is one of the best music documentaries ever made and no matter how many decades have passed by since this film’s theatrical release, it remains to this day an awesome musical documentary worth watching!
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