It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
What a jerk Bob Dylan was in 1965. What an immature, self-important, inflated, cruel, shallow little creature, lacking in empathy and contemptuous of anyone who was not himself or his lackey. Did we actually once take this twirp as our folk god? I scribbled down these observations as I watched the newly restored print of "Don't Look Back," the 1967 documentary about Dylan's 1965 concert tour of England. And I was asking myself: Surely I didn't fall for this at the time? I tried to remember the review I wrote when the movie was new. Was I so much under the Dylan spell that I couldn't see his weakness of character? Take the two scenes where he mercilessly puts down a couple of hardworking interviewers, who are only trying to do their job (i.e., give Dylan more publicity), while a roomful of Dylan yes-men, groupies and foot-kissers join in the jeers. I was chilled by the possibility that I reacted to these scenes differently the first time around, falling for Dylan's rude and nearly illiterate word games as he pontificates about "truth." I hurried home and burrowed into my files for the 1967 review of "Don't Look Back," and was relieved to discover that, even then, I had my senses about me. "Those who consider Dylan a lone, ethical figure standing up against the phonies will discover after seeing this film," I wrote, "that they have lost their hero. Dylan reveals himself, alas, to have clay feet like all the rest of us. He is immature, petty, vindictive, lacking a sense of humor, overly impressed with his own importance and not very bright." Thank God I was not deceived. I gave the movie three stars, and still do, for its alarming insights.
Of course there is the music. Always the music. I'm listening to "Highway 61 Revisited" as I write these words. I like his music, and I like his whiny, nasal delivery; it speaks to the eternal misunderstood complainer in all of us. I remember the thrill we all felt as undergraduates when we first heard "Blowing in the Wind." At the time we thought we were the Answer, my friends. But we were young, and hadn't seen this movie.
As a musician, Dylan has endured and triumphed. Perhaps he has also grown and matured as a human being, and is today a nice guy with an infectious sense of humor and soft-spoken modesty. Or maybe not. I don't know. What I do know is that D.A. Pennebaker's 1967 film, which invented the rock documentary, is a time capsule from the period when Sgt. Pepper was steamrolling Mr. Tambourine Man. "You don't ask the Beatles those questions, do you?" Dylan says to one reporter. To which the only possible answer was, Bob, you just don't know the half of it.
Another irony is that a true folk goddess, Joan Baez, with her remarkable voice, presence and soul, tags along during the early scenes, barely acknowledged by Dylan. She brings the film to a glow by singing "Love Is a Four-Letter Word" in a hotel room one night, and then disappears from the film, unremarked. My guess is that she'd had enough.