Look Out!/ Don’t Look Back

Look Out!/ Don't Look Back

Use “comments” to comment on the D.A. Pennebaker film. In the film, does Dylan show his genius, his brattiness, his weariness, his drugged-upness, his youth, a combination, or. . .? Is what he goes through simply the price of fame? Has the fame condition changed since 1965?
Or just comment on what you enjoyed or learned, or didn’t enjoy in the film. Compare it to Pacific Rim.


14 responses to “Look Out!/ Don’t Look Back

  • calebengler

    I’ve watched “DLB” before but watched it again for the class. Here are some impressions:

    1. Dylan is on speed/dope.
    During this period Dylan seems to be going a million miles an hour. He alternates between moments of frantic energy and dopey, spaced exhaustion.

    2. Dylan is obnoxious.
    Most young guys in their early 20’s have this capacity, and it’s almost difficult to fault Dylan for his behavior during this period. He’s surrounded by obnoxious people- mostly journalists and fans who seem to demand the impossible.

    3. Dylan is a bully.
    Do we think his praise for Donovan is sincere? Again, it’s almost hard to blame Dylan for bullying the science student and the Time reporter as they ask inane questions and demand impossible ‘answers’, and we must consider the absurd scrutiny being thrust upon him (much of the film finds Dylan in hotel rooms or backstage areas full of people either bothering him or blankly staring at his every move).

    4. Dylan is a crummy boyfriend.
    Then-girlfriend Joan Baez is virtually ignored throughout the film, which apparently was made as they were breaking up.

    5. Dylan is purposefully simple.
    To reporters: “I don’t believe in anything.”
    To aspiring musicians: “Just go out and play.”
    To awed fans: “I’m just a guitar player.”

    6. Dylan is brilliant.
    It’s great seeing him jam in hotel rooms with friends, and his craft and confidence on the stage are undeniable.

    7. Dylan smokes. A lot.
    Eighty cigarettes a day??!!

    • bumper07

      I actually read an article from only a few years ago that talks about how in the mid 60s Dylan had a serious problem with Heroin, and how he kicked a “$25 a day habit” (which I guess was a lot worse then than it would be now, although even still $750 a month is a lot of heroin.)

      Also I totally agree with points 3 and 4, and IIRC this film sort of candidly captures Dylan and Baez’s relationship ending.

  • soulsoldier87

    One of the things I noticed that I thought was interesting had to deal with the relationship between Bob Dylan and the audience. It is interesting to see a American artist in the UK and the reaction to him versus the US’ reaction to the British Invasion. The audience seems to give Dylan their complete attention and silence during the concerts. It is almost like a poetry reading. On the other hand bands like The Beatles are forced to quit playing live due to all the noise from fans. Just an interesting contrast between artists that is going on at the exact same time. The relationship between Dylan and his fans also seems to be on the mind of many of the reporters in the film. Almost inquiring as to whether or not he has what would be a cult like following and whether his audience even understands it. I especially saw tis point during the interviews they showed and in the last one he asks “Do you ask The Beatles that question?”

  • morduna19

    It’s a very interesting portrait of Dylan in which we see his various facets.
    We see his youthful overconfidence. We get to see just how indifferent he is to Joan. There’s that moment with Price and the glass where he berates him as if Price were a child under his tutelage.
    We see a lot of his contrariness, especially with the science student and the Times reporter.
    His exchange with the fan who didn’t like Subterranean Homesick blues was interesting. She says she didn’t like it because it didn’t sound like him to which he says something along the lines of “I can tell what kind of person you are just by looking at you.” As Darden Smith mentioned, Dylan was constantly re-inventing himself. So Dylan not sounding like Dylan is intentional.

  • michiko

    Caleb called Dylan obnoxious and a bully, and I agree. When you watch the “adults” around him, like his manager (Grossman), defend him and bully people for him it’s no wonder. Yesterday in class we talked about the “cult of celebrity” and this movie shows it in full swing. How can we expect people to behave humanly when everyone around them treats them in-humanly?

    I don’t know much about Pennybaker, but I wonder about his intent, his goal as a story teller. Why did he chose to edit the film in the way he did? My sense of Dylan thus far int he course is that he is an opportunist and a jerk, Pennybaker didn’t do anything to make me think any different, why wouldn’t he try to paint Dylan in a softer, more flattering light?

  • dohertys115thdream

    Hopefully the portrait of Dylan will be substantially altered as we shift (tomorrow, at the latest) to seeing the product of his mind, talent, will, extreme dedication to work and craft–that which emerges in his work, which I take to be art of the highest order (even, or especially, when he’s just playing around).

  • mbaig124

    I think it’s amazing that the film allows for us to get such an intimate look at Dylan as he interacts with fans, strangers, and friends. I was especially impressed with the way he confronted his discontent with the media and their obsession with his celebrity during his conversation with the Time journalist. I think that this film demonstrates the level of depth that Dylan seemed to carry around with him wherever he went. And I don’t mean that in the traditional sense of the word. We see different versions of him depending on who is in front of him. To be honest, I think the only way to keep himself from becoming a diva and letting his fame have an adverse effect on his personality is by remaining true to himself. He can perform sold out crowds, clown with his friends, and hide his eyes from the camera when he gets too high. Outside of his incredible talent for writing and performing, I think we share a little bit in common. He answers to no one about his endeavors. He is what you see, but not necessarily what you interpret. There’s a levity with which he treats people that approach him too seriously. He doesn’t have to do that. He could just as easily get caught up in a line of questioning and confirm others’ expectations of him. He has the opportunity to give them more substantive answers, but doing that would in a sense require him to submit to someone else’s interpretation. And that’s exactly the kind of thing that I believe he might secretly despise about famous folk.

    There’s a kind of pseudo-soctratic method he employs when talking to the journalist who claims that he’s “not worth knowing.” He evades the guy’s questions and counters with his own. Instead of letting himself get pinned down by stranger, he challenges the stranger to think about himself. The explicit point Dylan makes about himself is that he’s not that special. But even if he thinks he is, what motivates and inspires him is learning about other people. He grants them more esteem than a typical famous musician would. Hence I feel that his intentions are more noble than one would think.

    PS. As for the Pacific Rim comparison, I don’t think Dylan would care too much about “canceling the apocalypse.” I also don’t think he’d be too excited about sharing a robot and his consciousness with someone else. Guillermo Del Toro probably isn’t a big Dylan fan.

  • Courtney B.

    “Don’t Look Back” was very “Almost Famous” for me – a bunch of pompous, big-headed, famous kids playing shows, singing songs, dating each other, doing drugs and being all around assholes… And I kind of loved it (much like I love Almost Famous). I liked watching the backstage footage and seeing exactly how much all of these people literally LIVED to play their music (and apparently in Dylan’s case… everyone else’s too).

    Sure, he treated people less than mannerly. Sure, he was rude to the media. Sure, he told his fans exactly what he was thinking. Yeah, he probably was “obnoxious” and a “bully”… But why NOT? Those concert scenes sure didn’t sound like he was playing to a small crowd. And I’m pretty sure the media didn’t decide to up and quit interviewing him because he was a little mean (instead they traveled from Africa to ask four questions!). If there was ever a time for him to get away with being a total jerk, why not during “Dylan-mania?” Clearly, his attitude didn’t overshadow his musical geniusness… And I would actually argue the opposite – I would say that his attitude is part of what helped make him THE BOB DYLAN. It’s part of the reason this class even exists and we’re blogging about him right now.

    I also think Pennebaker did an excellent job of capturing him. He didn’t need to show Dylan in a softer light… He needed to show who Dylan was in this moment in time, and he succeeded. Maybe if this documentary had been filmed ten years later we would have seen a softer side. In fact, if this documentary had been filmed ten times over, I think we’d see a different Dylan in each one.

    My favorite person in the entire movie has probably got to be Dylan’s manager – I was literally laughing out loud when he told the hotel manager off. I also found it interesting when the Africa Service BBC reporter interviewed him; I’ve watched “Searching for Sugarman” and Dylan and Sugarman were major political influences in South Africa during this time.

    As for Pacific Rim… I can maybe see some resemblance in Charlie Day and Bob Dylan. And I’d venture to say that they’ve both been stoned quite a few days in their lifetime 😉

    • calebengler

      “Yeah, he probably was “obnoxious” and a “bully”… But why NOT?”-
      Unfortunately, Dylan was acting like an oblivious speedy brat at a time when there was a large segment of the population being oppressed (women, minorities, the poor) that were seeking a spokesperson that could serve as a genuine leader to bring attention to their genuine problems. There was obviously a vocal segment of his fans that were frustrated that Dylan was so reluctant to “walk it like he talked it”. Joan Baez speaks in the Scorsese documentary of how Dylan missed a big opportunity to foster actual societal change as a leader in his “moment” of the mid sixties.

      • Courtney B.

        And I don’t disagree. He definitely could have used his position to foster actual societal change. However, I tend to cut him a little slack… At the time of this documentary, he was a 24 year old kid, presented with a hostile media, crazed, car-crawling fans, uncomfortable with and never-intending to be a mouthpiece or leader of any kind, anxious over this possibility. He said in the documentary that the only reason he plays his shows and people come to them is for entertainment. Not a political rally.

        I think it’s obvious that he cared about societal change because of his lyrics, but I also think that pushing him into a leader role is what made him renounce his political protest later on. By finding a new way to approach topical issues, he gave ammunition to plenty of people who could be comfortable being a leader/spokesperson. Who could and would willfully use these words and these ideas to create change.

        I mentioned Sugarman in my previous comment – His songs motivated much of the middle-class population of South Africa during apartheid. His lyrics gave them a means of protest against their government. Meanwhile, he was a bum in Detroit who many South Africans believed had committed suicide. That didn’t stop his ideas and words from resonating and creating political protest leaders. I think Dylan’s words and ideas could have done the same, without him as their leader.

  • Melissa

    I’m astounded at how successful Dylan is at this point in his life, for being young kid out of Minnesota. Dylan’s nervous energy is extremely evident, one of the first things you notice, and I completely understands Van Ronk’s characterization of him now. That one scene, where they are listening to that dude jam out after everyone was freaking out about the glass in the street, Dylan is jiggling his leg and swaying uncontrollably. I’m convinced he couldn’t be still if he wanted to; is that the drugs, his nervousness, part of the image he’s cultivated? I particularly liked that scene, because his I feel like I saw the real Bob Dylan, literally uncensored. He says “man” after almost every phrase, describes everybody as cats, and I think it’s really great. Then, somehow, everybody ends up sitting around and playing guitar!
    I think one of the things that interests me so much about Bob Dylan is the time he came out of, the 60s were awesome. (I know Doherty hates that word, but I feel like its appropriate and I’m too lazy to find a better synonym) Isn’t everything being shaken around and flipped on its head in the 60s? Civil rights, war, life stuff. Dylan is right in the middle of it, or maybe the head of it, wether he likes it or not.
    Another scene that caught my attention is early in the film, when the reporter is asking Dylan if he thinks the young audience understands his complicated lyrics. Without hesitation Dylan says yes they understand, and the reporter seems a little taken aback. I guess I like seeing his faith in his fans that the reporter doesn’t see.
    Pennebaker did a wonderful job on this movie. I really enjoy how the film keeps circling back to Dylan playing “The Times They Are A Changing.” After watching, the movie makes me want to kick back and hang around with Bob. Besides the assholeyness, I think he seems really fun.

  • samanthaguerrero

    Finally posting my reaction to the film…

    Bob Dylan is a real nut case. But all genius is nutty, right? However, as I learn more about Dylan I cannot help but to question every one of his actions and all of rambling that comes out of his mouth. The first thing I noticed about him is the sort of bubble that he places himself even during a time at the peak of his career. When he is in his hotel room writing or even in the car conversing he seems to always be in deep thought almost detaching him from reality at all times. Basically, he seems to be some sort of mentally ill. Maybe it is the drugs. Maybe it is the genius. Who knows. One thing that is for sure though is that he is monstrously arrogant. I could not take him seriously in the scene where he is harassing the man about who threw the bottle out of the window. He reminded me so much of Ferris Bueller. I also could not appreciate his interaction with the young girls. He came off as really “F you little girl you don’t know what you’re talking about.” He sort of pulled a Kanye West, by crapping on her fifteen minutes of documentary fame by demeaning her warranted opinion about a song. Regardless of his nonchalant a-hole attitude I still find him intriguing. My inability to take him seriously does not allow me to harbor any hatred for his cruel actions throughout the film. Pennebaker provided a raw look into the life and fame of Dylan which I appreciated very much. I cannot recall seeing a recent or older celebrity documentary that depicted them in an unflattering manner and this film goes straight past the flattery of editing by just saying straight up, this is Bob Dylan during a major period in his career.

    Can I also say how much I loved Joan Baez in this film? She sings like an angel and she is just plain cool. I especially loved the beginning when that man asked for her name (if I recall correctly he was a reporter) and after she gave it to him he said something like, “Oh I didn’t recognize you.” Not that it could have possibly happened to Bob Dylan in his prime, but could you imagine how he might have reacted to some person pulling the I did not recognize you on him? His philosophically verbal attack on the reporter in the film makes me not even want to fathom how that incident would turn out. He would either give him that same sort of cruel talking to or he may just write a song about it. Maybe titled “It’s alright, man (You’re only an ignorant fool).”

  • Robert Schlembach

    I wish we put subtitles for the movie because he is already speaking nonsense, but he mumbles as well and usually in balancing a cigarette in his mouth so it is very hard to understand more than half of what he’s saying. The person working the camera seemed to have an obsession with zooming in on the people’s faces to the point where it is actually uncomfortable watching the film. I’ve never wanted to see Dylan’s ear that close before, or anyone’s ear for that matter. The movie has two things more than shots of Dylan, and that is cigarettes and newspapers. Bob was reading the newspaper like some sort of paranoiac, always reading, always tearing something out and… placing it on the wall? It was almost beautiful mind-ish, how manic he seemed to be about the newspaper. I’m pretty sure every shot in the movie had either a newspaper or a cigarette.
    Dylan gets the rock star treatment the whole movie. He has people getting mad at him, he is getting mad at people, he rubs his face like his life is so hard and that he is so tired, he is threatened to be kicked out of a hotel room, Grossman (his manager) starts yelling at people, girls are whistling and trying to catch a glimpse of him, he talks with the girls, people are jumping on and hitting his cars as they drive by, his manager is calling people and making deals and plans on film, he is a jerk to interviewers and flips interviews around…

    Up until this part, between reading all the books on Dylan and having been in the class, I thought he’d be a pretty nice guy. If his role model was Guthrie, he probably learned some thing of his manners. Of course, if he had any at all, they have flown right out the window come popularity. I have never been a music fan of his, but I at least liked who he was – the character he portrayed and what other people thought of him. Now, I’m not a fan of his music or his person.

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