No Direction Home

Bob Dylan: Like a rolling stone

No Direction Home: Bob Dylan – Deluxe 10th Anniversary Edition | 9/10

The first thing you hear is Bob Dylan’s voice.

“I had ambitions to set out and find, like an odyssey, this home I’d left a while back and couldn’t remember exactly where it was,” he says. “I was born a very far way from where I was supposed to be and I’m on my way home.”

That odyssey – from Robert Zimmerman’s birthplace of Hibbing, Minnesota to his controversial 1966 European tour – is the focus of Martin Scorsese’s expansive, insightful, and thoroughly engaging 3½-hour film.

The narrative is constructed around 10 hours of contemporary interviews with the man himself, Dylan speaking less obliquely than his reputation might suggest, complemented by insights from those who came closest to knowing him during that time. Folk legends like Liam Clancy and Pete Seeger, frequent collaborator Joan Baez, beat poet Allen Ginsberg, and even his then-girlfriend Suze Rotolo (from the ‘Freewheelin’ album cover) add some clarity and detail to the musician’s rapid transformation from opportunist in New York City’s Greenwich Village coffeehouse scene to recording artist to Woody Guthrie’s spiritual successor to ‘60s protest singer to chart-topping hitmaker to Judas.

“He was Charlie Chaplin, he was Dylan Thomas, he talked like Woody Guthrie,” recalls Clancy of the man circa 1964. “In old irish mythology they talk about the shape changers – he changed voices, he changed images, and it wasn’t necessary for him to be a definitive person, he was a receiver. He was possessed and he articulated what the rest of us wanted to say but couldn’t say.”

For all the talking, what’s most revealing is the archival material – like his turns at the Newport Folk Festival, from the traditional folk of his quiet 1963 appearance to 1965’s tense, truncated electric show that outraged the crowd and almost prompted Seeger to take an axe to the sound cables. Previously unreleased outtakes from D.A. Pennebaker’s ‘Don’t Look Back’ show a mischievous Dylan’s bemusement at audience responses – from off-stage adulation to the hostility greeting his plugged-in performances.

But it’s the footage from his Manchester Free Trade Hall show on 17 May 1966 – he responds to an audience member’s heckle of “Judas!” with a barbed “I don’t believe you… You’re a liar!” before telling his band to play the next song “fucking loud” – that best encapsulates Dylan’s odyssey to find himself. And of course his defiant performance of the “next song”, ‘Like A Rolling Stone’, sounds as dangerous as it does sublime – even more than 50 years later.

  • ‘Bob Dylan – Deluxe 10th Anniversary Edition’ is available on DVD and Blu-ray. It features 2½ hours of bonus and never-before-seen content, including extended scenes from the film and full-length interviews with Martin Scorsese, Dave van Ronk, and Liam Clancy.

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