by Bob Grimm & r & No Direction Home: Bob Dylan & r & Director Martin Scorsese's nearly four-hour documentary on Bob Dylan starts with what most today would consider a classic concert performance in England. Dylan, wild-eyed and wild-haired, screams to the skies for "Like a Rolling Stone" with the Band turning out a memorable jam behind him. Strange thing is, he's almost getting overwhelmed by boos. You see, a large part of the music-listening public loved their folk music, and while the press and his fans tried to label Dylan as the king of folk music, he refused the honor -- not because of hatred for the musical form, but for fear of being trapped in one musical room. His decision to "go electric" revealed the ugly side of a supposed peace-loving movement.
This film covers Dylan's career from 1961-66, and what seemed like a radical transformation in the mid-'60s seems like logical musical growth today. The movie is yet another triumph for Scorsese, who, along with his legendary studio films, was an assistant director on Woodstock, and chronicled the swan song of the original Band lineup with The Last Waltz.
The story starts in Minnesota, Dylan's birthplace, where he found himself a guitar and a record player and started playing songs. Dylan, who sits down for his first interview in 20 years, discusses many of his musical influences and idols, biggest among them Woody Guthrie. Scorsese uses a historical backdrop (JFK's assassination, MLK's historic speech) to remind the audience of the turmoil surrounding Dylan's emergence.
Interviewees include Joan Baez, who delivers a stunning current performance of the Dylan penned "Love Is Just a Four-Letter Word," and folk singer Pete Seeger, who, rumor has it, threatened to cut the cables during Dylan's electrified performance at the Newport Festival, which also featured rampant booing. No doubt, some of the folks who were booing Dylan in 1966 probably brag about attending those concerts 40 years ago.
This movie stands right alongside The Beatles Anthology and The Who's The Kids Are Alright as rock films that do the legendary subjects much justice.
A navigational feature allows you to jump to the music performances. There are also complete performance videos of seven songs, including "Like a Rolling Stone."