Movie Review By Andrea Chase
I speak now to those of you who are not Bob Dylan fans. Dylan fans don't need to hear a review of "Don't Look Back." They're going to flock to see this documentary about his 1965 tour of England no matter what anybody says, no matter if they have a tape at home and watch it obsessively. No, I speak to those of you out there who, like me, hadn't a clue that they would love visiting Dylan's universe.
Made by D.A. Pennebaker, who also made, the remarkable documentary of Clinton's first presidential campaign, "The War Room," it uses no captions, no narration and that's no problem. It doesn't matter if you know that the guy on the corner is Alan Ginsberg, or that the dazed guy as the party trying and failing to live up to Dylan's standard of hipness is Donovan. A newspaper headline hysterically screaming "Dylan Digs Donovan" still shows that even at the start of his career and a hemisphere away from home, Dylan ruled. Pennebaker, uses candid behind-the-scenes shots and dollops of performance footage, to show why that was.
Dylan's an unlikely icon. He always looks as though he's just been woken from a sound sleep and yet his eyes, through perpetually half-closed lids, engage. They seem to say, "Stay with me here, I've got some interesting points to make and you'll be glad you heard them."
Through the force of his complex personality and mordant wit, Dylan is the alpha male in any situation. He and people around him accept this fact the same way that they accept the law of gravity. Maybe that's why he's always civil, even when skewering the inane questions of fatuous journalists, because, in the final analysis, Dylan doesn't need to be rude or arrogant. The one time he's shown losing his cool, it's because of someone else's incivility.
In contrast, there's Dylan's riveting manager, the aptly named Albert Grossman. He negotiates Dylan's career with the acumen and demeanor of a shark circling a school of guppies. His voice, always a monotone, is one of the most menacing ever recorded.
"Don't Look Back's" last shot is Dylan's bemusement at being dubbed an anarchist by the press. Silly them, trying to sum him up in one word.
© 1998 - Andrea Chase - Air Date: 2/11/98
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