Bob Dylan: Don't Look Back

Blu-Ray Rating: *****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Read Chris's film review of Bob Dylan: Don't Look Back
Don't Look Back

The beauty of the collection of extras on this Criterion release is not just the wealth of them but the way that they dovetail together to present both a good feel for both where the film sits in Bob Dylan's life and its place within the work of DA Pennebaker.

The commentary track, from 1999, features Pennebaker and tour manager Bob Neuwirth - who appears in the film. It complements the film remarkably well, adding an extra layer of information that is informative without overpowering the documentary action itself. The pair fill out the story of the filming with anecdotes - including some that fellow folk singer Donovan would probably rather they kept to themselves - but also point out who various people are, which is helpful for the non-initiated.

Copy picture

They make an excellent double act, with Neuwirth offering an insight into what it's like to be in a documentary - "We rehearsed this scene," he says as he talks about wanting to give the documentarian something - while Pennebaker talks about the nuts and bolts of shooting it. He also talks about his evolving style, particularly the way in which he began to shy away from tying things up neatly, saying he was "careful about taking anything to its inevitable end".

Dylan is, of course, present in virtually every moment of the documentary but there is also a small, but fascinating, snippet from a 2000 interview with him, in which he offers up some reasons why he did the documentary in the first place and his opinion of Pennebaker.

Those who haven't had their fill of Dylan, can get their teeth into a further hour of footage in docuemntary 65 revisted and there are also Snapshots from the Tour - a collection of previously unseen outtakes from the tour - a different video version of Subterranean Homesick Blues and additional audio recordings that didn't make it into the final cut.

A new conversation between Pennebaker and Neuwirth about their work together is better included than not but mainly sees the men covering much of the same ground as they do in the commentary track. Much more engaging is the conversation between music critic Greil Marcus and Pennebaker from 2010. A lot more 'opinionated' than this sort of back and forth usually is, Marcus' lengthy observations succeed in drawing answers from Pennebaker that more straight forward Q&A probably wouldn't.

If you came for an insight on Dylan, you'll definitely stay for the examination of Pennebaker, and a new 33-minute documentary about the documentarian takes a whistle-stop tour through his career from his early shorts on up. In addition to offering more thoughts on Don't Look Back, it includes a terrific segment about 1968's Monterey Pop. Listening to Pennebaker talk about filming Janis Joplin - and getting her to perform twice so that he could - you can still sense his excitement and admiration as well as his burning desire to capture a 'moment' that many wouldn't see otherwise.

The interview with Patti Smith also turns out to be a gem, as the musician talks about the huge influence of Dylan on her - "I had found my guy," she says recalling her initial reaction to his music. "It was visceral. Physical." It's a heartfelt 14 minutes that also shows her, as a young woman, in a photo with Dylan, almost bursting with joy.

The extras are rounded out by the inclusion of three of Pennebaker's early shorts - Daybreak Express (1953), Baby (1954), and Lambert & Co (1964) - the trailer and a booklet (which I have not seen) featuring an essay by critic and poet Robert Polito.

Reviewed on: 17 Oct 2016
Share this with others on...
Bob Dylan: Don't Look Back packshot
A ground-breaking documentary about Bob Dylan's 1965 tour of England.
Amazon link

Product Code: #786

Region: 0

Ratio: 1.37:1, 1080p/23.976 fps, MPEG-4 AVC Video

Sound: LPCM monaural mix audio, Dolby Digital commentary track

Extras: New, restored 4K digital transfer, approved by director DA Pennebaker, with newly restored monaural sound from the original quarter-inch magnetic masters, presented uncompressed on the Blu-ray, audio commentary from 1999 featuring Pennebaker and tour manager Bob Neuwirth, 65 Revisited, a 2006 documentary by Pennebaker, audio excerpt from a 2000 interview with Bob Dylan for the documentary No Direction Home, cut to previously unseen outtakes from Dont Look Back, documentary about the evolution of Pennebaker’s filming style, Daybreak Express (1953), Baby (1954), Lambert & Co. (1964), conversation between Pennebaker and Neuwirth about their work together, Snapshots from the Tour, interview with musician Patti Smith, conversation between music critic Greil Marcus and Pennebaker from 2010, alternate version of the film’s Subterranean Homesick Blues cue card sequence, five audio recordings of Dylan songs not used in the film trailer, booklet featuring an essay by critic and poet Robert Polito

Search database: