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Thread: No Direction Home

  1. #1
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    No Direction Home

    Martin Scorcese's documentary on Bob Dylan will be aired on PBS tomorrow and Tuesday nights. This follows the release of the film on DVD last week. I couldn't wait a week, so I bought the DVD. For Dylan fans, it's a must-see. For others, it's still worth the 4-hour viewing time, at the least to see what all the fuss is about. Perhaps the film's strongest point is its extensive concert footage, as well as its numerous interviews with such luminaries as Joan Baez, Allen Ginsberg, Bob Neuwirth, Pete Seeger, and with Dylan himself.

    The film focuses entirely on Dylan's life and career up to 1966, the year in which he suffered extensive injuries in a motorcycle crash that temporarily slowed his evolution as a songwriter and performer. Although this time period is probably Dylan at his most talented and prolific, the documentary, in choosing to focus only on these years, doesn't entirely succeed in capturing the full Dylan persona.

    But then again, who exactly was Bob Dylan during those years, and who is he today? Joan Baez gives perhaps the most salient answer: "Bob was one of the most complex human beings I had ever met. I think at first I really tried to figure this guy out. And then I gave it up. So I don't know...I don't know what he thought about, all I know is what he gave us".

    What he gave us was some of the most exciting and challenging songs of his era. In 1962, Dylan was in Mississippi singing Pawn in the Game, then in '63 he was next to MLK in Washington singing When the Ship Comes In. Then he grew cold of being the protest song spokesman and he moved in a new direction, plugging in the electric guitar and churning out such classic albums as "Highway 61 Revisited" and "Blonde on Blonde". Was this the right decision? I don't know, but what he produced was musically groundbreaking and lyrically stunning, although it was not immediately popular at the time. The documentary contains wonderful footage of Dylan performing "Like a Rolling Stone" and "Maggie's Farm" at the Newport Folk Festival in '65, the songs drowned out in a chorus of boos. Similarly, when Dylan and his band start up an electrified version of Ballad of a Thin Man during a tour of England that year, a heckler yells out, "What happened to Woodie Guthrie, Dylan?". Dylan smiles, turns to his band, and tells them to play it loud. He starts singing, "You know something's happening but you don't know what it is...". Once again Dylan's one step ahead of the crowd.

  2. #2
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    Thanks for your comments, and for the reminder. 9 p.m. EST, folks.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the reminder. Ive been looking forward to this. There was talk of it being in the Nyff, but didn't happen for whatever reason. PBS it is.

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    Talk about bizarre, this same programme is being shown tonight and tomorrow on BBC2 in the UK, what's the occasion?

    Cheers Trev.
    The more I learn the less I know.

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    Martin Scorsese's excellent 201-minute documentary on the first twenty five years in the life of Bob Dylan, focuses on his artistic development. It traces his evolution from self-taught musician covering the songs written by his idols to his maturation as a poet/songwriter comfortable within several musical idioms.

    I walked down there and ended up
    In one of them coffee-houses on the block
    Got on stage to sing and play,
    Man there said "Come back some other day,
    You sound like a hillbilly;
    We want folk singers here."

    ("Talking New York")

    Dramatically, the tension is provided by Dylan's efforts to fend off efforts by the media and the masses to pigeonhole him, classify him, package 'n label him. The attack is relentless. Topical singer? Political activist? Protest scribe? Leader of the youth movement? The climax is provided by a concert in which Pete Seeger himself had to be restrained to keep him from cutting an electric cord. Dylan was playing half the songs on electric guitar around that time. The arrogant contempt of folkie purists has to be seen to be believed. Bob Dylan is the greatest poet and singer/songwriter of his generation, one who's always preferred the point of view of the outsider-looking-in, one who's always and rightfully regarded adulation and fame with suspicion.

    No Direction Home: Bob Dylan includes never-seen-before footage in pristine condition along with familiar material from docs by directors D.A. Pennebaker and Murray Lerner. Old and new interviews_including excerpts culled from a new 10-hour interview of Dylan by long-time friend Jeff Rosen, are edited masterfully to provide chronological and thematic order. The evolution of the artist is juxtaposed with the major events of the time, particularly those related to the Civil Rights movement and the Cold War. I was a bit surprised Scorsese gives free rein to Joan Baez to express her bitterness about the end of their brief relationship while making no mention of Dylan's marriage to Sara in 1965, which lasted 12 years and produced four children. Just a minor observation. My only issue with the film, really, is the failure to let any single performance play in its entirety (I know the unedited performances are included as extras on the dvd). What's not conveyed via these excerpts is how the precisely observed details in his songs gain power and meaning as they accumulate. A fan who hears a verse can put it in the context of the song as a whole, but I'm afraid a neophyte watching this film wouldn't comprehend the measure of Dylan's genius.

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    Originally posted by oscar jubis
    Dramatically, the tension is provided by Dylan's efforts to fend off efforts by the media and the masses to pigeonhole him, classify him, package 'n label him. The attack is relentless. Topical singer? Political activist? Protest scribe? Leader of the youth movement? ... Bob Dylan is the greatest poet and singer/songwriter of his generation, one who's always preferred the point of view of the outsider-looking-in, one who's always and rightfully regarded adulation and fame with suspicion.
    This was one of the most intriguing aspects of the film to me. Dylan was a "protest singer" early in his musical career, but he was never particularly political on specific subjects. It was only after the expectations grew too big for him in this area that he moved along musically and artistically. His songs from his brilliant '65 albums, "Highway 61 Revisited" and "Blonde on Blonde" were a far cry from the folk ballads on "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan". The songs were plugged in now, they were stronger in musical intensity, but at the same time they were lighter in the subject matter they took on. You won't find a Masters of War or A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall on these albums; instead you get Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 and Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues, i.e. fun and sarcastic songs with little to no mention of the growing chaos of the mid-60's era. In the documentary, Joan Baez mentioned that this was a time that she and Dylan were moving apart. She wanted to stay in the folk scene and sing songs that could effect change in the world; Dylan wanted no part of this. He was already disappearin' through the smoke rings of his mind at a time when the outside world was a-changin' rapidly.

    I agree that the interviews were "edited masterfully to provide chronological and thematic order", but I thought the musical footage was sometimes edited in awkwardly. For instance, in Part 1, there were several scenes of his mid 60's electrical performances interspersed with descriptions of his growing up in Minnesota. I didn't see the relevancy of such juxtapositions, unless it was to show the evolution of the artist.

    I also wish the film had done a better job of putting into context just how many great songs Dylan wrote in that time period. It wasn't like he was a one-hit wonder or a half-talented folk singer like Donovan. Check out this list of Dylan songs - it's amazing, many of these were written by the time he was 25:
    http://bobdylan.com/songs/

    One more thing: the DVDs don't actually contain any more concert footage than what was seen in the film. In fact, when you flip to the individual songs on the DVD, it just skips to that part of the film. Disappointing. But, the 2-disc CDs (sold separately from the DVD film) does contain the full versions of the songs. It's well worth the purchase price in my opinion, just for the live versions of Ballad of a Thin Man and Like a Rolling Stone alone.

  7. #7
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    Originally posted by JustaFied
    He was never particularly political on specific subjects. His songs from his brilliant '65 albums, "Highway 61 Revisited" and "Blonde on Blonde" were a far cry from the folk ballads on "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan".

    Right, his subject matter was always quite varied, not particularly political. Even "Freewheeling" features 8 out of 13 songs that have not a single political verse. The five "protest songs" therein are: "Blowin' in the Wind", "Masters of War", "A Hard Rain's", "Oxford Town" and "Talkin' WW III Blues". I've noticed several Dylan songs look back on relationships that have ended.

    I agree that the interviews were "edited masterfully to provide chronological and thematic order", but I thought the musical footage was sometimes edited in awkwardly. For instance, in Part 1, there were several scenes of his mid 60's electrical performances interspersed with descriptions of his growing up in Minnesota. I didn't see the relevancy of such juxtapositions, unless it was to show the evolution of the artist.

    I hadn't noticed until now that you mention it, JustaFied. Foreshadowing perhaps?

    I also wish the film had done a better job of putting into context just how many great songs Dylan wrote in that time period.

    Ed Bradley mentioned this during an interview of Dylan for the program 60 Minutes last year, but Scorsese gives no sense of just how prolific the young Dylan was as a songwriter.

    the DVDs don't actually contain any more concert footage than what was seen in the film. In fact, when you flip to the individual songs on the DVD, it just skips to that part of the film. Disappointing.

    Several sources indicate the dvd set includes 8 songs performed in their entirety. I wtached it on PBS so I don't know firsthand. Please check the extra features on the discs and let me know.

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    Thanks for the info guys.

    I haven't seen the doc but I'm buying the DVD as soon as I can.
    It's great to hear 2 real Dylan fans discussing the merits.

    Considering it's what, almost 3 hours, I can imagine what Marty put together. That 2-disc "soundtrack" looks pretty sweet.


    Off topic a bit:

    I just bought Joey Ramone's last record Don't Worry About Me and I cried when I heard his What a Wonderful World.
    Louie would have liked it. Greatest cover of that song, bar none.

    Come on...crank that up and tell me that Joey wasn't a genius.

    Also, the track 1969 is movie-worthy. You could use that in a movie. Just figure out some wicked images/story that would match it and badda-bing: classic stuff.

    The other track that I crank up off that LP is Maria Bartaromo. Very Who-ish.

    I also went to see Selkirk Manitoba's own The Farrell Brothers with The Deadcats on Thursday night. Mind-blowing rock and roll in the punk vein- Bif Naked was sitting at the next table, actually. She's seen all over Vancouver. She has a studio on the east side I heard. Her tattoos are awesome. I couldn't stop looking at her arms...



    But as for Sir Bob, I can't wait to see No Direction.

    Busy busy- This is the first festival "marathon" I've done.
    I'm on the net now because the 10 am screening for The Oil Factor (Behind the War on Terror) is sold out.
    This festival is drawing some serious numbers.

    If a 10 A.M. show is sold out, then changes to the schedule are inevitable. Trier's Manderlay starts at 1:40 PM. I figure I'll have to be in line for an hour- even with a pass you can be denied entry.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  9. #9
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    Originally posted by oscar jubis
    Right, his subject matter was always quite varied, not particularly political. Even "Freewheeling" features 8 out of 13 songs that have not a single political verse. The five "protest songs" therein are: "Blowin' in the Wind", "Masters of War", "A Hard Rain's", "Oxford Town" and "Talkin' WW III Blues". I've noticed several Dylan songs look back on relationships that have ended.
    True, Freewheelin' Bob Dylan isn't entirely a "protest song" album, but five protest songs on that album sure beats the zero found on his first two "electric" albums, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde. That said, Highway 61 remains my favorite Dylan album due to its brilliant wordplay and imagery, as well as the wonderful melodies in its songs.


    Ed Bradley mentioned this during an interview of Dylan for the program 60 Minutes last year, but Scorsese gives no sense of just how prolific the young Dylan was as a songwriter.
    He was both prolific and brilliant (am I overusing that word?) in his songwriting. This wasn't a guy churning out mediocre music.


    Several sources indicate the dvd set includes 8 songs performed in their entirety. I wtached it on PBS so I don't know firsthand. Please check the extra features on the discs and let me know.
    I checked again, and the concert footage "extras" on the DVDs simply skip to the footage shown in the film itself. So you saw the same thing I did.

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    *Thanks for checking, JustaFied. I'll probably buy the CDs instead.
    Favorite album? It's hard to make up my mind. I've probably played Freewheelin', Highway 61 and Blonde the most times. To those 3 add these seven to make a top 10 (no order implied): Bringing It All Back Home, John Wesley Harding, Blood on the Tracks, The Basement Tapes, Love and Theft, Nashville Skyline, and Before the Flood.

    *I read an article about Joey's last album months ago, decided to buy it (of course) and never did. I heard his cover of Wonderful World on college radio. Moving no doubt, but not as tearjerkin' as listening to Lennon's Beautiful Boy, in which he tells Sean how much fun it's gonna be to "see you come of age". If I was an actor having to cry on demand, I'd play that song and it's like flicking a switch.
    Last edited by oscar jubis; 10-03-2005 at 07:07 AM.

  11. #11
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    Out on the ocean... sailing away
    I can hardly wait
    To see you come of age
    But I guess we'll both just have to be patient

    Cuz it's a long way to go
    A hard road to hoe
    But in the meantime....



    You got it oscar- Lennon was a musical genius.
    I read somewhere that Double Fantasy shows John and Yoko were breaking up.

    He'd sing "Just Like Starting Over"
    She'd sing "I'm Moving On"
    He'd sing "Clean-up Time"
    She'd sing "Give Me Something That's Not Cold"

    We'll never know for sure, but John and Yoko had their tiffs and problems. Remember that "Lost Weekend"?

    Before you cross the street
    Take my hand
    Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans
    Last edited by Johann; 11-05-2005 at 01:06 PM.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  12. #12
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    A personal essay

    NO DIRECTION HOME

    Directed by Martin Scorcese (2005)

    "If I'd known how bad you'd treat me, honey I never would have come" - Man of Constant Sorrow, traditional


    The first time I heard the name Bob Dylan was at a party in Los Angeles in 1962. Someone put on a record of some guy with a twangy voice strapped to a harmonica. He was singing songs about death and dying and I wondered why a young folk singer would be singing songs about dying at age twenty. But it really moved. It didn't just sit there. It got up and moved and I remarked to people at the party that I never heard of this guy but it was really going and I didn't know where it was going to take me. He was singing "I'm a Man of Constant Sorrow" and how could a boy of twenty be a man of constant sorrow, but I felt it deep in my being. Martin Scorcese's documentary No Direction Home brought it all back home and allowed me to relive those heady days when the world seemed ready to turn the page on the fifties fallout shelter mentality and embrace a new morning.

    No Direction Home follows the career of Bob Dylan from his childhood in Hibbing, Minnesota to his motorcycle accident in 1966, highlighting the most creative years in his life and offering previously unseen footage of Dylan as a young man. It brings to life the promise of that period that belonged to us and Bobby and Joan Baez, and Pete Seeger and Dave van Ronk, and Woody and Cisco and Leadbelly too and it also brings back the sting of its failure. There is great music in the entire film and it is uplifting and wonderful but may be remembered only for its opening act, the act in which Dylan called us to greatness. He challenged us to wake up and look around and we did and for that brief period, our word was law in the universe. Through it all, he articulated our dreams and our sense of loss at the world that was rightly ours but had been temporarily taken away from us and in the jingle jangle morning we came following him.

    When we gathered to protest the war in Vietnam, we could hear him telling us about those that "fasten the triggers for the others to fire", those that "set back and watch when the death count gets higher". We marched to call attention to those that would hide in their mansions "as young people's blood flows out of their bodies and is buried in the mud". He asked, "how many roads must a man walk down before you can call him a man?" The answer may have been blowin' in the wind but, until then, few had dared to tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it. We knew that the times they were a changin' but we had not seen the direction they were headed in until the civil rights movement exploded and Martin Luther King told us about standing up tall and people dared to talk about peace at a time when our leaders seemed determined to blow us all to smithereens.

    During that time when young people began to open themselves up to the possibility of a more meaningful existence, he looked out and saw "ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken, guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children", and he knew that a hard rain was gonna fall and we knew it too but didn't want to believe it. He was the spokesman of a generation. He now says that he never wanted to be the spokesman of a generation, but he was and nothing else seemed to matter. Who cares if Shakespeare wanted to be the soul of the age? He was and that's all that counted. But a hard rain did begin to fall as Dylan had said and claimed John as the first victim, and then Martin, then Bobby and the country began to lose its soul. Dylan followed after that, perhaps a victim of too much, too soon, a young man without a strong sense of self who seized the opportunity to reinvent himself but lost who he was in the process.

    Though he gained new converts along the way, he crashed and burned until he finally became a man who would stop at nothing to convince us that it was all a mistake. At first it was the language of rock 'n roll, which at that time meant the language of commercial "success", the language of the top twenty hits, agents and producers and big record sales. And we noticed the hour when his ship came in. We understood but we couldn't relate. We smelled sellout. We felt a sense of loss, though we knew deep down that whatever he touched he would raise to a new level. He did but reached the heights without us. Like A Rolling Stone was a great song, perhaps the greatest rock song that's ever been written, but it wasn't our song. It didn't speak to us. Dylan had been a poet of people who cared, now he reflected a world grown cynical, people who wanted to go it alone, who looked to get in while the getting was good.

    He broke new ground and was great at what he did, but if Ghandi had become the greatest university professor India had ever known, we would have looked on in admiration but it would not have been the same Ghandi that inspired us. For me Dylan will always be forever young and when he dies his Country period, his Las Vegas period, his born-again phase, and his other numerous phases will all be forgotten. He will be remembered as a man who challenged the status quo when it was not fashionable to do so, who tried to deny his own greatness but couldn't because we all knew better and when he is buried they will lower him down like a king.

    GRADE: A
    Last edited by Howard Schumann; 11-21-2005 at 12:27 PM.
    "They must find it hard, those who have taken authority as truth, rather than truth as authority" Gerald Massey

  13. #13
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    The title of your post fits. I enjoyed reading it very much.

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    Originally posted by oscar jubis
    The title of your post fits. I enjoyed reading it very much.
    Thanks very much. The piece just wrote itself. I went along for the ride.
    "They must find it hard, those who have taken authority as truth, rather than truth as authority" Gerald Massey

  15. #15
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    Haven't seen it. Don't have TV. I'm looking forward to it. Don't Look Back is a favorite of mine.

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