When Dylan headed out on his 1965 tour of England, he was ascending a dizzying peak of creativity. He hadn't yet gone electric on stage, and was a year from being famously branded a Judas. He had a physical beauty and musical irresistibility that brings to mind the Hindu Lord Krishna (whose own flute stylings drove cowherd girls crazy). Dylan was untouchable.
D.A. Pennebaker's feature-length doc of that tour, Don't Look Back, is, of course, one of the all-time great pieces of rock 'n' roll filmmaking. Part of that is Dylan's allure, and part is Pennebaker's formidable filmmaking skills. He weaves black-and-white film footage of concert appearances, press conferences, and chain-smoking car rides to create as intimate a portrait of Zimmy as we're ever going to see. One minute he's jovial and next he's jittery and cranky. A colorful cast of characters surrounded him, including gal-pal Joan Baez, manager Albert Grossman, Allen Ginsberg and chief competition Donovan. He interacts with increasingly frantic fans. Through it all, you see Dylan begin to crack under a pressure no human could handle. It's a great portrait of fame's downside.
The new '65 Tour Deluxe Edition comes with a new hour-long collection of outtakes from the original documentary which are every bit as enthralling as the original film. There's also a book with a transcript of the entire doc and a little flipbook of the cue-card video for "Subterranean Homesick Blues." It's a gorgeous package heaven for the amateur Dylanologist.
Brian J. Bowe writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.