“Dont Look Back” is about the Sixties and the man who got a lot of us through them. Bob Dylan is more than the folk singer touted by the record industry, more than the songwriter whose poetry is the only kind many of us remember, more than the Kerouac-kid who haunts our best writing. He is the force that blew us out of one era and into another. His words are ambiguous, his style constantly changing and his avoidance of publicity obsessive, yet he remains the influential voice of our times. “Dont Look Back” was filmed during a three week concert tour of England in the spring of 1965. More than a view of an extraordinary concert tour, “Dont Look Back” is an intimate portrait of one of the most influential songwriters of our times.
As far as I’m concerned, it was never meant to be a documentary. I don’t like them much. To my mind, the most interesting filmmaker that I ever knew of was Robert Flaherty, who made “Nanook of the North.” It was about this Eskimo, and Flaherty didn’t try to tell you everything there was about the life of an Eskimo. He just wanted to show you what it was like to be with an Eskimo for little bit. And that’s the feeling I tried to put across. I was never interested in educating people about Dylan. First of all, I don’t know enough about him. Who does? Besides, that’s Dylan’s business. If he wanted to educate people, I’m sure he knows how to do it. What I wanted to do was just be present when Dylan enacted his life and show you what he deals with and what interests him.
It may not be so much about Dylan because Dylan is sort of acting throughout the film. And that’s his right. He needs some protection in a sense against that process. But I think what you do find out is the extraordinary pressure of having to go out and be absolutely perfect on call. That is, he had to fill a house. It wasn’t just enough that he had every seat booked, he had to have standees. He had to be extraordinary where most of us settle for just being adequate.
D A Pennebaker
- A film by D A PENNEBAKER 1967, 95 min., b&w With BOB DYLAN, JOAN BAEZ, DONOVAN, ALAN PRICE, ALBERT GROSSMAN and BOB NEUWIRTH Camera D A PENNEBAKER Assistant Camera HOWARD ALK Sound JONES ALK Concert sound J. ROBERT VAN DYKE Editing D A PENNEBAKER Footage of Dylan in Mississippi shot by ED EMSHWILLER Producers ALBERT GROSSMAN, JOHN COURT, LEACOCK-PENNEBAKER, INC.