Bob Dylan: Stephen Fenerjian
David Browne
September 27, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT

No Direction Home

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
director
Martin Scorsese
genre
Documentary
We gave it an A-

Unfurling Bob Dylan’s basic narrative yet again — chubby, ambitious Minnesota folkie transforms into wiry, broom-haired rock enigma — No Direction Home, Martin Scorsese’s admiring portrait, can be positively unenlightening. (Watch as Joan Baez, Allen Ginsberg, and Greenwich Village peers struggle to explain him!) Yet the film’s dearth of fresh insight is offset by must-see footage, musical and otherwise: Facing off with yet another clueless reporter in 1965, Dylan responds to a question about the number of protest singers with a deadpan ”about 136.” As principal talking head and narrator, Dylan can be typically cagey and frustrating (was he really shocked at being labeled a ”topical singer”?) but also candid (”You can’t be wise and in love at the same time,” he concedes, recalling his dissing of Baez). The climax — the bard, gone gloriously electric, confronting stunned, often hostile folk crowds — is genuinely dramatic. You wish Scorsese hadn’t stopped at 1966, thereby playing into the golden-era mythology that Dylan must despise. But the director’s take on his subject (pop culture’s first martyr, burnt out at 25) is valid and powerful. EXTRAS Performance footage not in the film includes Dylan crooning the never-released ”I Can’t Leave Her Behind” in a hotel room and ”Girl From the North Country” on an unbelievably contrived ”campground” set for a TV show (how did he go along with that?). Meanwhile, clips of adoring fans in a shelved semi-video for ”Positively 4th Street” are startling reminders that, briefly, Dylan was an egghead-teen idol.

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