close your eyes

Martin Scorsese - No Direction Home: Bob Dylan (2005)

I have just seen part 1 of this documentary on the early Bob Dylan which covers the time up to the Newport folk festival 1963. And what strikes me most about it is the contrast between the person who is depicted here and the same person commenting on it forty years on. They do not seem to be carved from the same wood. The young Dylan was a lucid poet, an agile intellectual. The old one seems to be a boring plain man who has no connection whatsoever to his earlier self. This to me is the proof - and not the fact that almost all witnesses are saying the same thing - that Dylan was a medium in the early 60s, a medium which picked up the vibe of the times and transformed it into instantly classic songs speaking to so many people. Like Liam Clancy from the The Clancy Brothers which made Irish folk known in the States in the 60s says:

He articulated what the rest of us wanted to say But couldn’t say

Dylan seems to have lost that power to absorb the spirit of the time like a sponge and turn it into art. Maybe there is no spirit anymore today. It is quite striking that the same thing happened to Joni Mitchell. Who has given up music altogether for the better. What she says today is mundane. But the songs she wrote in the early 70s were about such amazing and often prophetic observations (mainly of the relationship between men and women). And she succeeded in condensing them into lyrical images fused with unforgettable tunes.

Joan Baez tells this story about Dylan typing lyrics for songs on his typewriter in Carmel where they lived together for a while and asking her what they mean. According to her he acknowledged her interpretation and said that he doesn't know what they mean himself but that there will be people all around the world who will try to decipher those songs. If that was true he would have been a prophet on a meta level at least.

Joan Baez's warble when they sang With God on Our Side together at the end of Newport '63. I had forgotten how beautifully warm her voice was. Must get a 60s album by her. Which one?

Dave van Ronk is the jovial guy with Stetson. He tells a story about the old folk song The House of the Rising Sun. I won't tell it here. It is a good one.

Four stars.

IMDB User Rating: 8.6/10 (2,047 votes)


last updated: 2/23/21, 8:55 AM
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