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DONT LOOK BACK (director/writer: D.A. Pennebaker; cinematographers: Jones Alk/Howard Alk; editor: D.A. Pennebaker; cast: Joan Baez, Donovan, Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, Albert Grossman, Alan Price; Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Albert Grossman/John Court; Warner Home Video; 1967)
It’s a classic doc worth savoring for its brilliant bitchiness.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

D.A. Pennebaker’s (“Jane”/”Monterey Pop”/”The War Room”)captures with handheld cameras the spirited 24-year-old Bob Dylan’s moody persona on his memorable month long 1965 tour of Great Britain that climaxes with him singing “The Times They Are a-Changin'” at the London’s Royal Albert Hall. It marks a time the singer transforms himself from a folk singer to a rock idol, and is riding on a crest of a new popularity. It offers a lot of Dylan interacting with sparring matches with the uncool Brit press and an equally uncool but sophisticated Time magazine reporter, his cagey no-nonsense bulldog of a manager (Albert Grossman) scheming to get the BBC to give him more money, plus his eager fans meeting him backstage while thunderstruck in awe and badgering him for some contact, some snippy hangers-on upsetting him by throwing a bottle out of the hotel window, and with the Man himself laughing it up with fellow musicians such as Joan Baez, Alan Price and Donovan. When not putting on his guests with snappy retorts, Dylan sings such tunes as “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” “It’s all Right Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” and “The Gates of Eden.”

It works as a beautiful b/w time capsule cinema verité doc (though Dylan is always aware that camera is on) that gives us a spellbinding Dylan gliding through an England that wasn’t swinging yet, as the cool leather-clad performer feels his oats and gives off in private with a cynical, testy and mean-spirited rap. He also comes off as a smart-ass oracle when refusing to answer the clueless reporters vague questions with straight answers. But Dylan’s star shines as everyone wants to be near the bright lights emanating from his presence.

It’s a classic doc worth savoring for its brilliant bitchiness and its keen observations of a young Dylan trying to be both outgoing to the public and at the same keeping the image of a hipster reclusive rocker, and in the end turning out to be just as elusive in private as he is in public.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”