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Dont Look Back Bob Dylan Documentary

In: Film and Music

Submitted By shamiyah1
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In the film, Don't Look Back, the documentary starring Bob Dylan, we see both the dark and enlightening sides of Bob Dylan. throughout the film it’s clear that Dylan has a level of comfort with the director, and as a result we are allowed into his personal life on and off stage. there are also a few moments of ambiguity and some highlights in the film that indirectly give us a sense of ageism, sexism and cultural values. The directors craft helps tie these together in a way that is appealing to the audience and can be drawn back to David R. Shumways’ of that era. First I’d like to analyze my impression of the film. Before the film I knew of Bob Dylan, his music, his legacy. I was under the impression that Dylan fell into the category of mellow pot smokers or “stoners” of the mid­sixties who were heavily involved in politics and current events. Then having heard a few of his songs, I thought, “wow this guy really wants the best for our society”. With that in mind, I also believed Bob Dylans personality would be sort of gentle and affectionate. Dont Look Back pretty much challenged all point of views. Dylan gets into a lot of conflict throughout the film. There are several moments, when we are unsure if Dylan is being civil or argumentative with people. Although, we do get a glimpse at Bob Dylans sensitive side, we are preoccupied by his radical actions throughout the film. The introduction to the documentary, is a flashback into Bob Dylan's career, showing his origins as a singer for the homeless or basically anyone who couldn't afford to see him in concert. From the audiences standpoint, we are thinking about how much of a generous person, Bob Dylan seems to be. This flashback doesn't prepares us for the drastic changes in his personality throughout the film. I believe the directors aim with this structure was to build a climax so that the audience wanted to see how Dylan had grown in his career. Dylans kind behavior seems to carry on into the next scene. Which holds the first interview in

the film, in which he is very friendly with an african man pressman. The fact that the guy was indeed a black male, in the nineteen fifties, insists that regardless of racial tensions,Dylan holds a sense of humility and tolerance. Dylan seems to be getting along very well with everyone in the room, and everyone is having a swell time. As opposed to the other interviews throughout the movie where things take an interesting turn. Before this interview there are several events that initially revealed that Dylan wasn't this spiritual , folk artist I’d thought he was. In fact, he seems to be a child. And like any child, he has his share of buddies and before shows they’d goof around singing nursery rhymes, and fiddling with instruments before shows and sometimes getting into a little trouble. For instance, at one point in the film, the owner of a building (an older man) kicks Dylan out of an exclusive room after his performance. I recognized this as a moment of ageism in the film. When the man kicks out Bob Dylan he angrily says, “Would you get out of this room? we have valuables in this room!”. This could be taken in any number of ways, but by the mans body language and age alone, we can imply that this was a case of an old man cracking down on a “meddling kid” or Bob Dylan for that matter. This was the only time it was clear that Dylan was being victimized, otherwise we’re just debating on whether Bob Dylan is defending himself or being rude. Yet, there are a few highlights in the movie where Bob Dylan begins to lighten up. One that stands out entirely is when the director is able to get a few young girls, also fans of Bob Dylans’ to get his autograph. This was a clever way of the director, showing us how Dylan would react to “starstruck” teen girls. In this scene a teen girl says “Pinch me, pinch me!” when shes given the opportunity to get the stars’ autograph. Upon writing it for her, for the first time we get to see Dylan act shy. Other moments of sexism are seen when following Bob Dylan and is his relationship with Joan Baez. Although in the

introduction of the film we know that they are together, we never really get to see Bob Dylan show any affection towards her. Even when they are playing music in his hotel room and she is singing, “turn, turn again” ironically, Dylan remains alone to himself. you may think he’d show some compassion since he’d invited her on the tour but he doesn't and when his buddy, comes around (donovan) he bashes her and treats her as if she doesn't belong there and that she isn't “one of the guys”. This was a major event of Sexism. I believe the directors goal with these scenes (close together) was to contrast his actions in both environments. The director succeeded in making me question how Dylan could be so shy and so humble towards those young teens girls yet so unsympathetic towards Joan. Im sure the directors aim was to prove that Bob Dylan was heartless, cruel or insignificant, because in other ways he showed us that Bob Dylan is actually a unique figure. At one point, a woman approaches Dylan to tell him that he is a good example for youth. And In a few interviews in the movie he displays his passion about the content of his music. He doesn't exactly speak with passion but he does state (after performing ‘Times are a changin’) that he just wants people to listen to what his music says. David R. Shumway clarifies the fact that Dylan asks us to believe that this style of music is a form of self expression, which I would agree as well, that the he expresses himself on stage. Bob Dylan goes on in the film telling us that everything is sacred and that he is not “cynical”. In fact, One thing that sets Dylan aside from other artists of the era is his cultural norms. Unlike the Beatles, a group given wealth and fame through the british invasion, he came from a wealthy and educated background, thus giving his music and personality to have a few social values. I would argue that since Bob Dylan was a born a cliched all american kid, thats what gives his music sustenance, the very fact that he was involved in our society. Like in Dave Szatmary’s analysis of the artists, where he explains that in place of social protests, Dylan crafted personal and sometimes cryptic songs. I think the director of Dont Look Back

arranged these songs in follow specific moments in the film so that the audience could connect the ideas portrayed in Bob Dylan's music to his actual persona in the documentary. So that settles it. there are two sides to Bob Dylan: Radical and Down to earth. When things start to take a shot at his personal ‘self’, thats when we see that there is a thin line between the two. but as we watch Don't Look Back closely and get an idea of who Bob Dylan is as an artist, we understand the reasons behind his actions in the film. I guess I am right about one thing however, Bob Dylan was a lot like the hippies of the nineteen fifties. One thing that is also true is that Bob Dylan’s uniqueness came on stage which ties into David R. Shumway idea that, while a record, a video or a film may rely on only some of these elements, the performing unit is finally the result of all of them. From a cultural, sexist and agist perspective the Director of Dont Look Back gave us a closer look at Bob Dylan to reveal why he was indeed a highlight of his time period.

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