No Direction Home: Bob Dylan Martin Scorsese 2005 USA The life and art of Bob Dylan from his early years to 1966.If Scorsese takes too long in pussyfooting about trying to establish a historical context for Dylan, the second part of this documentary is an electrifying, riveting portrait of an artist whose attention both drives him and upsets him. A passionate documentary, as expected, with masses of fascinating archive footage for fans to drool over.
I'm an ugly bag of mostly water born to be informed and the only one that knows me is Obi-Wan Kenobi.
If Scorsese takes too long in pussyfooting about trying to establish a historical context for Dylan...
Forget that. It's a necessary set-up in order to emphasise what Dylan was actually doing at that time, and how rebellious his going electric actually was.
I think viewers of I'm Not There would benefit greatly from seeing this film, and this film itself benefits greatly after seeing Haynes's treatment on Dylan as cultural phenomenon.
Part 2 is decidedly brief; 91 minutes of great material that I would have happily kept watching had it gone on longer. The opening footage of Dylan outside the pet store, switching words and changing their meanings is so exciting, and Scorsese edits back and forth between archive footage and contemporary interviews to make an effortless narrative going into the conclusion.
Some of the talking heads have an unusual air of scripted, emphatic nostalgia about them; inevitably so, perhaps, considering some of these characters haven't really moved on (whereas Dylan has; that's the whole point) - Liam Clancy with his stubbornly Irish accent and a pint of beer before him, breaking casually into song (as does Joan Baez later on, who comes across throughout as hopelessly naive and desperate for her own success); Maria Muldaur sits cosily in a café as if this is some period mockumentary (like the mock talking heads in Haynes's film), not a contemporary look-back.
This tone bothered me when I first saw it, but it doesn't as much now; it's probably the way Scorsese's camera subtly zooms in an tracks back - it's too polished, too rehearsed. Compare that with the point-and-shoot (and to-the-point) method of Pennebaker's Dont Look Back - to which Scorsese is consciously indebted, along with Murray Lerner's Festival - and it seems an unnecessary attempt for maintaining some sort of visual interest.
The most interesting speakers are the ones who seem to acknowledge their own humble inability to change with the times: Pete Seeger recalling how he was "upset" with Dylan going electric at a folk festival (something which emerges greatly is the feeling of hard-done-by snobbery from the folk world when Dylan goes his own way). Ginsberg in particular is captivating in his own anecdotal way. All of these save the last (Ginsberg is beardless and sane as opposed to bearded and outlandish) are cartoonish, aware of their role in relation to Dylan, and simulations of their own personae (as if they've been wearing what they are all their lives).
It's only Dylan's own interviews that gives us any sort of modern reality: he mumbles his way through the film, coy and embarrassed, but also frank and self-aware, twitching his lips between sentences and shaking his head so slightly you hardly notice. This is his manner, trialled and process over the years so as to keep a poker face even when conning you he's being honest; it's an impermeable performance in itself, really, and all the more captivating for it. Inter-cut with archive footage of him singing "When the Ship Comes In" or "Like a Rolling Stone" (my favourite is his staccato rendition of "Mr. Tambourine Man" from the same gig at which he had "Judas!" spat at him, found on the Bootleg Series vol. 4), these talking heads of a croaky, weathered Bob seem tame and disappointing, almost. But that's the point.