Portrait of an artist as a young man. Roughly chronological, using archival footage intercut with recent interviews, a story takes shape of Bob Dylan’s (b. 1941) coming of age from 1961 to 1966 as a singer, songwriter, performer, and star. He takes from others: singing styles, chord changes, and rare records. He keeps moving: on stage, around New York City and on tour, from Suze Rotolo to Joan Baez and on, from songs of topical witness to songs of raucous independence, from folk to rock. He drops the past. He refuses, usually with humor and charm, to be simplified, classified, categorized, or finalized: always becoming, we see a shapeshifter on a journey with no direction home.
All Movie Review:
Much like in The Last Temptation of Christ, Martin Scorsese makes a figure of God-like power more relatable – without diminishing an ounce of his mysterious power – in the remarkable achievement that is No Direction Home: Bob Dylan. Martin Scorsese manages to make the inscrutable performer very human by making clear how quickly Dylan can adapt to whatever surrounds him, as well as absorb whatever strikes his fancy. By showing so many of the folk artists that influenced the young Dylan, it becomes easier to understand the persona he developed in his early career. Where the film surpasses earlier works on Dylan (most specifically the still fascinating Don’t Look Back) is in the way Scorsese details the various forces both internal and external that led to Dylan embracing the change in his sound that alienated many in his audience. There are edits that make connections even longtime Dylanphiles may not have considered. Scorsese’s sure hand becomes even more apparent in the second half, which opens with a dizzying sequence that makes the viewer feel the claustrophobia and pressure Dylan was experiencing at the time. The film works as history thanks to the wealth of remarkable footage Scorsese was granted access to, but the most fascinating aspect is that the film feels as psychologically penetrating as any film could be about an artist who seems to pride himself on his successful ability to stay unknowable. Dylan is still inscrutable at the end of the film, but in some way he has been made less mythic and more human thanks to Scorsese’s skill. – Perry Seibert
Subtitles:Spanish and English