Film / Don't Look Back

Dont Look Back (actually spelled that way) is a 1967 Rockumentary film, annex Concert Film about Bob Dylan's tour in the UK, directed by D. A. Pennebaker. The film is historically important for capturing Dylan at the peak of his success and his controversial move from folk to electric rock music. It also famous for an iconic proto-music video in which Dylan shows a series of text cards while "Subterranean Homesick Blues" from his album Bringing It All Back Home plays in the background. As a result it was inducted in the National Film Registry in 1998.

Not to be confused with Don't Look Back the English title of a 2009 French arthouse thriller called Ne Te Retourne Pas.

This documentary provides examples of:

  • And Starring: Besides Dylan the documentary also has guest appearances by Joan Baez, Albert Grossman, Alan Price (of The Animals), John Mayall, Marianne Faithfull, Donovan, and Allen Ginsberg.
  • Concert Film: Concert footage is included.
  • Cryptically Unhelpful Answer: Bob's advice to the world.
    "Keep a good head and always carry a lightbulb."
  • Deadpan Snarker: Dylan, when dealing with journalists and critics.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The film is shot in black-and-white.
  • Implausible Deniability: When Dylan reads a newspaper article about himself he jokes:
    "God, I'm glad I'm not me."
  • Jerk Ass: He comes across as a major one, as Roger Ebert notes in his review of the film's 20th anniversary reissue:
    "What a jerk Bob Dylan was in 1965. What an immature, self-important, inflated, cruel, shallow little creature, lacking in empathy and contemptuous of anyone who was not himself or his lackey. Did we actually once take this twirp as our folk god?"
  • Notable Music Videos: A very early example of a music video is seen in the film, where Dylan shows a series of text cards to the tune of "Subterranean Homesick Blues". The man in the background to the left of him is Allen Ginsberg.
  • Pretender Diss: Dylan's comments against Donovan.
  • Rockumentary: One of the most acclaimed.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The title is often thought to be a shout-out to a phrase from the song "She Belongs To Me" from Bringing It All Back Home. However D.A. Pennebaker denies this.
    • The video for "Weird Al" Yankovic's song "Bob" parodies this film's opening "Subterranean Homesick Blues" sequence.
    • "Mediate" by INXS, from their album Kick, has a music video which is a shout-out to the "Subterranean Homesick Blues" sequence in this film.
    • The satirical film Bob Roberts (1992) parodies many scenes from this movie, including a clear parody of the opening scene.
    • Chumbawamba has a track called "Give the Anarchist a Cigarette" on their album "Anarchy" (1994).
      "Give the anarchist a cigarette/ 'Cause that's as close as he's ever going to get/ Bobby just hasn't earned it yet."
    • Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story parodies the film notably during a press conference scene in which a reporter compares Dewey to Dylan. Dewey replies, "Why doesn't anyone ask Bob Dylan why he sounds so much like Dewey Cox?", parodying a press conference in Don't Look Back where Dylan provides a similar response when a reporter compares Dylan to fellow singer-songwriter Donovan.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Dylan's infamous line:
    "Give the anarchist a cigarette."
  • Spell My Name with an "S":
    • The original title of the film is actually "Dont Look Back'', because the director wanted to simplify the language. Many sources have corrected it as "Don't Look Back" however.
    • Similarly Dylan's spelling on the text cards he shows during "Subterranean Homesick Blues" is very eccentric.
  • Take That, Critics!: Dylan taunts a TIME magazine journalist, Horace Freeland Judson.
    "You know the audience that subscribe to TIME Magazine, the audience of people that want to know what's happening in the world week by week, the people that work during the day and can read it, its small, alright and it's concise and there's pictures in it, you know? It's a certain class of people, its a class of people that take the magazine seriously, I mean sure I can read it, you know, I read it , I get it on the airplanes but I don't take it seriously. If I want to find out anything, I'm not gonna read TIME magazine, I'm not gunna read Newsweek, I'm not gunna read any of these magazines, I mean cause they just got to much to lose by printing the truth. You know that."