No Direction Home. It was a weird film with fascinating footage of Dylan very early in his career. However, in some ways it was very unsatisfying and provided little insight into the man, his “process,” or his work. The film does open a small window into the early to mid-Sixties and the social changes that were beginning to take hold of American society.

Dylan, it seems, while being right in the thick of popular musicians who were defining the era, did not really want to play a role in the public sphere. He wanted to write his music, his lyrics and have an audience with which to share them.

The film captures an ambitious young man who is curious about music, who seeks to go out and learn as much as he can and then apply it to his own work. He goes through a process of discovering his own voice as a poet and musician, and then without doing anything that would be considered self-promoting, he proceeds to become very popular and his folk songs acquire a patina of mystical truth that people might grant to the words of a prophet.

Dylan doesn’t seem to care. He appreciates the larger audiences, but he simply moves on musically and thematically. When his fans protest, he is insulted but moves ahead with his ideas anyway. Ultimately, he becomes tired to the point of disgust with others’ definition of him, and the relentless expectations of the media, the fans and the general public. The movie ends with his playing Like a Rolling Stone one final time, but he tells his band to play it “fucking loud” and it’s as if he is shouting at the audience (a member of which calls him “Judas” when he steps on stage because he rarely sings folk or protest songs by that point in his career) to just shut up and listen: he is no prophet, he is a singer and songwriter who simply wants them to listen.

I was struck by his intelligence, but also by the sense that he wasn’t really in tune with other people. He didn’t seem to be very sensitive to those who surrounded him or to care much about them. He was driven by his art. He is funny in the clips as a young man. I mean that he has a sharp wit and a quirky, cynical sense of humor that flashes quickly when an opportunity presents itself. He seems to be disenchanted with the role society thrust upon him, and a little tired – both in the clips as a young man and in the recent interview that pulls the film together. He’s never truly happy or at ease. He’s always under the gaze of fans or a camera as his popularity soars. He has to do press conference after press conference to promote a tour, but he mocks the press and jabs at them instead of responding to even a single question.

The issue of religion or spirituality doesn’t touch the film at all. It’s a pragmatic movie that simply shows a musician who is very talented as he begins his career and takes it to a point where he is one of the most well-known musical performers and songwriters of his generation. It left me a little empty and seeking to learn much more. But I don’t think he’s an enigma on purpose, I think he recognizes that being a popular performer might make others seek to learn and dote on his opinions, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that his opinions have any significant value. So he doesn’t really open up. The music, he thinks, should speak for itself.

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  • I agree, he is very absorbed but i guess that’s what any idealist would be: when love is always conditional, why bother with it? Why not just focus on finding your truth, and making peace with it? People are so fucking disappointing!

  • My two favorite parts were in the first part.

    1. When he’s tuning his guitar at the Newport festival and his guitar seems to just…not be tuning. 🙂


    2. When he’s being interviewed on the radio and they say, “so, your song’s about blah blah blah.” And he goes, “no. It’s just a hard rain. That’s all.” (Clearly, I’m paraphrasing.)

    Honestly, I would be dissappointed in a film about his background and his life and feelings and such things. I like that he seemed godly and removed when he was being interviewed and that it was all about his coming into the icon that he is–even if it wasn’t anticipated or enjoyed by him.
    Did you notice how many of the people in charge of the music business were Jewish? I forgot the guy I’m thinking of’s name, but he had a heavy Jew from New York accent and he was interviewed with piles of files around him. He made me laugh because he was just so…Jewish from New York. And I would have liked just a little talk about how his family ended up in Duluth, cause that I still don’t get (and because I wanted them to mention the shtetl they came from in Lithuania–the same one my Zeide’s from!). And I also never knew that When the Ship Comes In was written in one night when he was upset about not being admitted into a hotel. Sigh…I’m going to go dream about his gorgeousness now.

  • Now that I’ve had a chance to think about it some more, another thing that struck me was that most of the people who surrounded him – and since his world was music, these people were musicians or artists involved in music or promoters, etc. – were fairly intelligent and seemed to have a real passion for music and art. One of the artists even points out that at the time commercial success was not part of the equation, instead success was measured by whether an artist “had something to say.”

  • Dylan totally rules.

    I still listen to Like A Rolling Stone, Desolation Row, etc. etc., just about every day. Highway 61 Revisited, with its incredible midrash on the Akeidah is one of the most amazing things ever created. There has been nothing and no one like Dylan before or since, and I never get tired of listenting to him.

    That said, he didn’t appear to be a very nice guy. And self-absorbed doesn’t even begin to describe him, at least as he presented himself in the film. But, so what? Nice guys do not create great art. And since I will never meet him, I don’t care what sort of a person he is, really, I only care about the songs he wrote.

    But I wish he wasn’t a goniff. He should have never stolen those records, and he should have totally returned them to their rightful owner. And he never admitted that it was a shitty thing to do. Bothered me a lot.

    And, yeah, somebody should write a book on all of the Jews in the music business. If it weren’t for the Jews, nobody would know about Elvis, Muddy, or any of them.

  • Google and Amazon bring forth the following books:

    Rock ‘N’ Roll Jews (Judaic Traditions in Literature, Music, and Art) by Michael Billig

    Jews Who Rock by Perry Farrell

    Whores: An Oral Biography of Perry Farrell and Jane’s Addiction by Brendan Mullen

    Schmelvis: In Search of Elvis Presley’s Jewish Roots by Jonathan Goldstein

    Stars of David: Rock’N’Roll’s Jewish Stories by Scott R. Benarde

  • Screw rock ‘n roll. How about jazz? The Jews were pushing the bop envelope right there along with Parker and Monk in the ’40s. Hell, Bird’s early trumpeter, Red Rodney, was Jewish. Lee Konitz? Stan Getz?

    Or, if we have to talk about rock, both Walter Becker AND Donald Fagen (which certainly explains a lot). Mick Jones? Yeaahhh…Jews rule.

  • I thought the best parts of the film were the concert footage.

    The Dylan on tour today isn’t a “poseur looking for a commercial comeback. If you listen to him speak, Dylan sounds like the only reason he went back on tour was because he wanted to. I’m pretty sure he isn’t doing it for the Cash like he was back in the 80’s.

    Today’s Dylan seems less angry and more comfortable in his own skin. He seems to be just a musician looking to spread his music to his fans.

    On a personal note, I once saw him perform in Montreal, had to buy standing room tickets that was all that was left. It was a great show, and for the encore, the entire band and singers were dressed in Montreal Canadian hockey uniforms, (the place went wild of course), but not Dylan.

  • Dylan’s music has had such a profound effect on so many people over the years, and this documentary has brought that point home in a powerful way. It most certainly left volumes about Dylan unsaid, but it made me extremely happy to know that he has survived and thrived where so many of his contemporaries have not. Every one of his songs was an intricate and complex gift to some part of the human race. Dylan’s works were like the words of scripture. They could be either embraced or despised, but once heard it was almost impossible to ignore them, especially the ones that were hardest to understand. My favorite point about the show was that Dylan was equally unaffected by both the groups who wanted to either kiss his ass or kick it. He was compelled to to give us all he had , and he remained faithful to his mission. I believe he still does today, and it makes me very very happy to see the same enduring inspiration in his eyes today. I pray that Bob Dylan will outlive his music and all those who booed and misunderstood him.


  • I saw it and agree with your entire opinion.I believe the filmaker,Martin S,who is an enigma himself created a piece that mimicked Dylan as opposed to really getting at him.Just so much more flattery of Dylan.It is somewhat tiresome after all these years.What impresses me most about Dylan is that he semmed to be hatched,fully matured, to handle the onslaught of national fame.This at 18 or 20 years of age.I am a southern male from a Christian family who turned 18 in 1960 an was interested in Dylan from that time.I always supposed what I was seeing was the sacrifices and seed of Dylans ancestors bursting into a flower.As if he had little to say about the matter.

  • I have been obsessed with Bobby since seeing No Directon Home, having missed the whole era pretty much, being busy raising toddlers in the early sixties. Now, at age 72, I am pining after Dylan…..go figure!