Judge David M. Gutiérrez thinks he just wasn't made for these times.
"All my songs are protest songs."—Bob Dylan
It's difficult to review something like Bob Dylan: No Direction Home without thinking about what the United States and the rest of the planet were like over forty years ago. It's equally difficult to think about Bob Dylan and his music without thinking about what Dylan was thinking about when he began influencing everyone from the Beatles to street musicians.
Bob Dylan: No Direction Home looks at when and not just who. It's a brilliant move on director Martin Scorsese's part to show the world and people that surrounded Bob Dylan. Set during Dylan's rise to fame during the early-to-mid '60s, the documentary pieces archival footage and contemporary interviews together to illustrate how a career and a politically musical/musically political movement were simultaneously built.
Ever remaining the center of the film, Dylan never seems taken aback or shocked by the events around him. To use a cliché, it's always about the music with him. He just wants to play, man. Make no mistake, Dylan's completely aware of his growing fame and influence—an awareness he uses for himself—he just never shows his hand. It's a bit much to call anyone a mouthpiece of a generation, but I think it's fair to say the film paints Dylan as someone vocalizing a much-shared sentiment. You couldn't have Bob Dylan without the '60s; however, you probably couldn't have had the '60s without Bob Dylan.
It's difficult to narrow down the best parts of the documentary. Brimming with rarely seen and unseen performances, the film is a Dylan fan's dream. Equally fascinating are the interviews with Dylan's contemporaries. Joan Baez, Allan Ginsberg, and Dylan himself provide the strongest impressions of the time. Sadly, there isn't all that much contemporary Dylan in the documentary.
Special features include more performances either rarely seen or previously unseen. All of these are incorporated into the documentary itself. Also included are a promotional spot for "Positively 4th Street" and footage of Dylan working on "I Can't Leave Her Behind."
The documentary is presented in full screen. Being that much of the footage has aged, grain and scratches are present. It never gets bothersome, but only becomes noticeable when juxtaposed against recent footage. Occasionally, the sound becomes muddled during older recordings. Thankfully, the film never becomes inaudible.
Bob Dylan: No Direction Home is what I'd call the perfect documentary. It takes its subject and presents him and the world around him. It makes understanding Bob Dylan easy. It makes Dylan even more interesting (if that were even possible). It made me break out my Dylan collection. What more can a film do?
Bob Dylan: No Direction Home is free to go. It deserves a place on the shelf next to Bob Dylan: Don't Look Back, Gimme Shelter, and The Beatles Anthology. Go make more music, Bob.
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