"Bob Dylan: Don't Look Back" Blu-ray Review
April 26, 2011 by Zach Demeter
When acclaimed documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker (Monterey Pop, The War Room) filmed Bob Dylan during a three-week concert tour of England in the Spring of 1965, he had no idea he was about to create one of the most intimate glimpses of the rock legend ever put on film. Wanting to make more than just a concert film, Pennebaker decided to seek out both the public and private Bob Dylan. With unobtrusive equipment and rare access to the elusive performer, he achieved a fly-on-the-wall glimpse of one of the most influential musicians of all timeóand redefined filmmaking along the way.
Released on Blu-ray for the first time, this definitive set includes the classic film in high-definition, the 65 Revisited bonus discówhich includes an hour-long behind-the-scenes look at Dylanóand a new, never-before-seen interview of director D.A. Pennebaker by renowned rock critic Greil Marcus and the director. More than just a concert film, DONT LOOK BACK is a window into the spirit of the í60s, and one of the poet-musicians whose words and songs defined it.
Perhaps the idea of the documentary didnít fully come into mind during this production, as all of this footage feels like the participants have their guards up a little too much. Dylan especially seems to rebuke the camera at times, sometimes coming off as quite standoffish and inexplicably rude. This seems to be the persona he keeps up throughout the brief documentary, but there are moments where his true self (as well as other participants like Joan Baez) shines through and itís not quite the same aloof mentality from the people on screen that we grew used to.
The strange thing about this film is not just how old it is but also how un-documentary like it feels. It really doesnít have any kind of narrative throughout; itís just watching a particular period in Dylanís life as he tours. Itís interesting for that reason alone though; there is some really raw footage here and while itís hard to tell if some or all of it is staged, it is still nevertheless a very interesting ďdocumentary,Ē regardless if it really can be considered one or not. Itís really just a fly-on-the-wall type of approach, as there isnít a lot of revelatory footage in this film but itís the kind of stuff fans clamor for in an attempt to get to know their idol that much better.
This documentary is over forty years old at this point, but it still manages to be an entertaining production nonetheless. Chances are if youíre a Dylan fan youíre already well aware of this documentaryÖbut if you arenít, then you should at least check it out as itís a Recommended outing to be sure.
This marks the first docuramafilms Blu-ray Iíve ever reviewed; generally I just get DVDs from them, but this is a nice two-disc Blu-ray/DVD set that fans will definitely enjoy. The original film is presented here in high definition though the footage is so old that even though itís remastered to the best of their abilities itís still pretty grainy, but the ď65 RevisitedĒ is still on a separate DVD-only disc. Iím willing to bet this is the same disc as previously released on DVD, but not owning it I canít compare the two. Still, itís a nice little set and one fans will definitely like to add to their collection.
65 Revisited Bonus Disc
Greil Marcus Interview with D.A. Pennebaker
Five Additional Uncut Audio Tracks
Commentary by D.A. Pennebaker and tour road manager Bob Neuwirth
Alternate Version of the ďSubterranean Homesick BluesĒ Cue Card Sequence
Original Theatrical Trailer
Itís a pretty meaty set, though, again, I donít think it differs much from the previous release. Still a Highly Recommended set if you want this one on Blu-ray, but I donít think youíre going to get much of a performance boost considering the source quality and its age.
Bob Dylan: Donít Look Back arrives on Blu-ray on April 26th.