Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Don't Look Back (1968)

Here's a good interview with the producer, D.A. Pennebaker. He's well known in documentary film circles. We'll talk a little bit about cinema verite this week, a movement for which Pennebaker was a noted practitioner/developer.


Group 2: By Tuesday morning, post a 3-400 word response on Berkeley in the Sixties, directed by Mark Kitchell.

Group 1: By Thursday at noon, post a 200 wordish response to something or things discussed by Group 1.


  1. From Austin M:

    Don’t Look Back follows the life of Bob Dylan as he tours across England in 1964, his main reason for going on this tour was to change his image which was that of a “finger pointing” folk singer. Although this style of singing was how he earned his reputation in the United States Bob Dylan felt that this view did not encompass him, and like most films we have viewed so far the people of this decade wanted to “find themselves”. Unlike most films we have viewed so far this film is set in the now, meaning it was produced and filmed as it actually happened, like Woodstock. This is essentially more important because future influences have not altered any of this film. Don’t Look Back provides an insight into the way of life for famous musicians in the 1960’s and also reflects their attitudes. Bob Dylan for example came off as being cocky, interruptive, yet charming and charismatic. When he is interviewed by a reporter Bob Dylan not only answers his questions but also asks questions of his own, making the reporter question himself. This scene is vivid to me because of Bob Dylan’s attacking nature, although seeming aggressive in his interview his voice does not show anger and the view comes away feeling as if Dylan was just testing the reporter to rethink his ideas before interviewing someone such as Dylan. Another scene that provides an insight into the way of life of musicians in the time period is that several times Bob Dylan and his crew and other band members sit down together and chill and smoke together. Although it is not mentioned as marijuana you can infer that with the heavy smoking and drinking that the group does that perhaps some of them are indulging in the drug, as was the fashion of this time period. Something else that I found interesting was the use of Dylan’s hit “The times they are a changing”. This song was played several times throughout the film and was his biggest hit at the time, I infer that this is because the many young adults of the 60’s wanted things to change, rebelling against the older ways of life. Even the title of the documentary follows this theme, the younger generation wanted to move forward and not look back.

  2. From Geri B:

    Bob Dylan toured and performed in London, England during the year of 1965. The documentary, "Don't Look Back", provided their audience with insight as to what he did during his time spent in England. I must say that I enjoyed watching the film because having heard the name "Bob Dylan" numerous times, I was curious to see what brought him to his level of fame. From what I seen, Mr. Dylan is far different than any other celebrity in many ways. It didn't seem like he enjoys all of the publicity, he just enjoys the sole concept of entertainment. There has been a lot of speculation referring to Bob as a genius, in my opinion, his lyrics alone prove that he is.

    His lyrics include a variety of social, political, and philosophical influences. Bob was originally influenced by songs from Woody Guthrie, Robert Johnson, and Hank Williams. When he first started writing music he began in the genre of folk and blues. Although, during his career of about fifty years, he has also written songs in the country genre, gospel genre, rock and roll genre, and even for the jazz and swing genre.

    He doesn't only have a wide variety of genres, but of instruments as well. He likes to perform with his guitar, harmonica, and keyboard. Most of the documentary, he performed with both his guitar and keyboard. I enjoyed seeing his performances just as much as I did his interviews. My favorite interview during the film would be the one where he was with the man from Time Magazine. He was very aggravated that many of the articles contain nothing but lies. I could tell that he was hesitant to give a direct answer to really any question. I also found it quite humorous how he would ask his own questions during his interviews. Comparing his interviews to the ones I see today on television, if their interviewer asks a question they aren't comfortable answering a lot of them will become very hostile or simply leave. I found the way he sort of dodged questions was in a very respectful manner. Also, for the interviews today, almost none of the celebrities ask more questions than the person conducting the interview. I found that to be very interesting as well.

    Overall, I see Bob Dylan as a very influential man. Not only is his music inspirational, but his whole persona is unique and amazing. Ultimately, I believe the documentarian did a swell job of portraying both of those aspects.

  3. From Amanda D:

    Amanda DeRossett (group 2):

    This week in film class we got to watch the documentary film about Bob Dylan’s 1965 tour of the United Kingdom. This is a film by D.A. Pennebaker and the film was first shown May 17, 1967. It follows Dylan’s concert tour and shows the film viewers the behind the scenes of his concerts, his performances, all the individuals that traveled with him; like Joan Baez, Alan Price, Albert Grossman (Dylan’s manager), and other friends and people who worked for him. In the beginning of the film, you see Dylan holding up poster boards of words from the song, “Subterranean Homesick Blues”. Words that stood out during the song and meant something to him. Throughout the film, there are concerts Dylan performs at, you hear the song, “The Times They Are A-Changin’” more than once. The people conducting the interviews with Bob Dylan constantly asked how he felt about what was happening in the United States, and what his songs meant and what the songs meant to him. In some of the interviews with Dylan, he wasn’t very pleasant towards the reporters. From my knowledge of Dylan, he didn’t like to be in the public eye very much, and he felt like the majority of the press was against him. When asked questions by the media on occasions, Dylan would have an attitude towards them, he believed the media didn’t care about him or the world’s issues. Dylan’s amazing songwriting made him a sensation in folk music and around the world. Dylan wrote about war, the civil rights movement, and many issues concerning American citizens. All of his songs told a story. Many of the performances in the United Kingdom by Dylan were him singing his songs, and many felt like he was saying poetry. In the film, you also see Dylan writing lyrics on his typewriter a lot. You can tell just by watching him, that he constantly had ideas for songs. Dylan changed the 1960’s a lot with his music, he was brave for showing the world at the time what he believed in. Especially in the United States, when there was constant hate because of war and the terrible things that were happening in the south between blacks and whites. Bob Dylan has always been a private and quiet man, but his music spoke loud for him. I also got to see a humorous side of Dylan in this film, he wasn’t just an amazing songwriter and quiet man, he had a sense of humor and defended himself and his friends to others when he needed to. To me, Bob Dylan is and forever will be the best songwriter in history.

  4. This film has interested me more than any other that we have watched in class mainly because I really enjoyed Bob Dylan’s music prior to viewing “don’t look back.” I’ve been interested in finding out more about Bob and actually getting to see who he was in person was really cool. Being filmed in the 1960’s made for a great feel to the documentary. The old school grainy looks, the quick picture to picture transitions, and the extreme close ups are just some of the great things seen and offered by old films and documentaries. Especially on the extreme close ups, I feel that It is a great way to see the emotions shown by these great people.
    It was pretty incredible to see the way Bob Dylan dealt with reporters and actually a lot of people that he talked to. I knew that he had a great amount of rebellion in him from listening to his lyrics. In the documentary it showed with his constant questioning run around with most reporters and how he didn’t care what was printed about him. I feel like he just didn’t want to be labeled but instead wanted his music to be interpreted individually and affect people differently.
    I haven’t watched a lot of music documentaries from this time period but one thing that I noticed about “don’t look back” was the amount of footage they showed of Bob and his friends just hanging out before or after he had went on stage. I feel like the director was trying to give the viewers a sense of almost being there on tour with Bob. The 60’s folk movement was fueled by Bob, not only in America but obviously in England as well. From the older very proper British woman to the girls on the street, everyone was excited to talk to him.
    Before watching this documentary I only recognized the Bob Dylan that talked about how “everybody must get stoned,” but after watching the films in this class I have connected more of his lyrics to events happening in the time period that these songs were made in.

  5. From Matthew P:

    “Don’t Look Back” is a 1968 film by D.A. Pennebaker that follows Bob Dylan’s 1965 tour across England. From what I could tell the film was completely shot with a hand held camera, a format for a documentary that I thought was interesting. It literally puts the audience in the feeling of being in the middle of the scene, instead of simply a person watching the scene going on from the outside. That perspective was something that I thought was unique, but also something that made sense with the documentary’s circumstances being that it was following Dylan on this music tour.
    My favorite scene of the entire documentary was the very opening scene of this movie with the Dylan standing in front of the camera holding the cue cards with various the lyrics to the song “Subterranean Homesick Blues”. I thought it was a very successful way to start such a documentary. It really shows how clever and brilliant of a lyricist Dylan really was because it makes you listen and think on almost every lyric as you read them on the cue cards.
    This tour captured Dylan as he was rising in global popularity as part of the folk and rock music genre. There are a number of scenes in the film that are of interviews Bob is having throughout this tour that can give insight into why he might have been so popular at this time. The scene I can remember specifically that stood out in my mind as significant was when a reporter with glasses interviewed Dylan. Every time the reporter asked a question, Dylan would turn the question back on the reporter to make him rethink his preconceived notions about who he thought Dylan was. The fact that this film was a “set in the moment” type of film, like “Woodstock”, was interesting to me as well. As a fan of Bob Dylan it was satisfying to watch as a firsthand witness this short snapshot of the personal life of such a true artist.

  6. I always enjoy Bob Dylan's work. He can come off as a rank asshole sometimes, but then again, many artists do. I also enjoy how he never fails to captivate everyone in the process. More than once his attitude, his persona have been cited here as alluring, even if not approved of. One of the perks to having the film shot with a hand held camera is that we can feel like we just entered the room. We can feel as if we are inside the room having a smoke, as Bob dishes terribly aggressive intellectual assualts on reporters trying to interview him. I did however become unhapppy on a few occasions with the hand held method. I'm not a fan of the wobbly camera, which while not frequent, was quite frantic when occuring. As for the documentary in whole, it was well done. I do wish there had been more music, but the insight into Bob's personality is terrific. I also feel that Pennebaker did a great job conveying Bob's desire to transition his career, which I'm sure was Bob's purpose for allowing it. I too love the song, and video for Subterranean Homesick Blues. It's interesting to look back at the artists of that time collaborating. Not only with Donovan and Joan Baez, but in the Subterranean video with Allen Ginsberg, the famous beatnik poet. Though Ginsberg doesn't say anything, it's almost like Dylan's showing off his coolness. Sort of a, hey I'm 23 years old and Allen Ginsberg's in my music video. It also plays up the collaboration going on between folk artists, rock artists, and the beat generation. Some from the beatnik era of the late 1940s and 1950s came to be friends of legendary musicians. Ginsberg and Dylan, and Neal Cassady and the Grateful Dead are two examples vivid in my mind. This was a great time in American popular culture. I hope folks return to the free expression and explosion of ideas the symbolize the 1960s for me and many others who were not around to experience it.

  7. Kenta Goto

    "Don't look back" is a 1967 documentary film by D.A. Pennebaker that covers Bob Dylan's 1965 concert tour of the United Kingdom. The original title of this film is Dont Look Back without an apostrophe in the first word. D.A. Pennebaker, the film's writer and director decided to punctuate the title this way because he "was trying to simplify the language". Many sources, however, assumed this to be a typographical error and swiftly "corrected" the title to Don't Look Back. The film was made on Dylan's 1965 U.K. tour, a pivotal moment in his career, as he began to move away from the folk movement from which he'd emerged. It's amazing, and reveals a certain antagonistic streak in Dylan, a tendency to go on the attack, to prevent anybody from understanding him or pinning down anything about him. Pennebaker, by simply observing, by letting his camera unobtrusively weave through the scene, getting a rough fly-on-the-wall perspective on the singer, arguably understands much more than almost anybody else who Dylan encounters over the course of this film. If Pennebaker's film is enlightening about Dylan the man, it remains even more worthwhile for its portrayal of Dylan the musician.
    Pennebaker seems to know it's only part, that there are many parts to Dylan, which is why Don't Look Back is structured as such a collage of public and private, performance and backstage, "in character" and out, rock star and folk singer and pop idol and just a guy enjoying himself and doing what he wants. All of these things are in Dylan, and all of these things are in Pennebaker's film as well.

  8. From Jessica W:

    Only in America can you take a seemingly normal young man who just happens to have a gift with words, expose him to some of the opportunities only fame and fortune can bring, and watch his ideals flow into songs that play globally; effecting the lives of millions. Don’t Look back should’ve been entitled, Keep Moving Forward. this film has officially taken over as my favorite documentary watched thus far. When attempting to describe in words on how the documentarian presented the tour, one phrase kept coming to mind; “the impact of normality.” The film, down to just the opening scene for example, portrayed this lyrical genius as definitely not what I expected. The way the tour was originally filmed, then in turn shown back within the documentary really gave me a feel for what traveling with the crew of Bob Dylan was like, and what he himself was like. Whatever proper name filmmakers give to this effect, it worked. The realistic perspective showed just how much of an average joe Bob was. I suppose I find this so intriguing due to the impact of his music on generations of people. The mass venues of screaming fans fell silent when he sang. The explosive power it takes to calm thousands, coming from a young man so plain, is astonishing. I loved it..

  9. From Andrew H:

    in response to Austin:

    you said something in your post about how in person Bob Dylan seemed aggressive but his music did not seem so when he sang. I would argue that his music and voice were aggressive. even though he might not have been screaming at the top of his lungs about what he wanted to say, he was still aggressive in the way he spoke out about injustice and social unrest. it is true that his voice was rather subdued but his lyrics were aggressive in nature and abrasive as well. to me, he always seemed to, in his own mind, know exactly who he was but didn't like for others to assume they knew him because of what he sang about or what he looked like. it was funny to me in the film when he was talking with a guy in his dressing room, and the guy said something about how people like Dylan viewed him as a person. this statement makes Dylan mad, in my opinion, because this guy is assuming that Dylan is like someone else because of the way he looks rather than talking to him first and that's why he begins to get upset and kind of argue with the guy. what I like the most about Dylan is that he has always tried to reinvent himself in some way or another and never wanted to compromise for anything or anyone, that is where his art is different from a lot of other performers of his day. most of the other artists of the 60s started playing a certain style and just stuck to that formula. and others when they started, just started to play styles that everyone else was doing, Dylan, on the other hand, was constantly changing and never wanted to stay stagnate.