Follow TV Tropes


Film / Don't Look Back

Go To

Dont Look Back (actually spelled that way onscreen, without the apostrophe) is a 1967 Rockumentary / Concert Film, directed by D. A. Pennebaker, about Bob Dylan's 1965 tour of the UK (his last tour without a band). It also captures the end of his romantic relationship with fellow folk singer Joan Baez, who he took on tour with him and would remain a regular collaborator of his through the 1970s.

The film is historically important for capturing Dylan at a crucial point in his career. He was busy making his controversial move from folk to electric rock music, but at the time of the tour, his early folk albums had just become smash hits in the UK, so he was dealing with throngs of fans expecting him to recreate a style that he'd already moved on from, and the boredom and frustration of that situation is a major subtext of the film. It's 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, a 2009 French arthouse thriller.

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."
  • Jerkass: He comes across as a major one, though the question of whether this was Kayfabe for the sake for Pennebaker's cameras, brought on by the stresses of his sudden fame, has been debated frequently over the years. Roger Ebert (admittedly not a fan of Dylan's music) wasn't very impressed in his review of the film's 30th 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?"
  • Pretender Diss: Dylan's comments against Donovan.
  • Rockumentary: One of the most acclaimed.
  • Separated by a Common Language: A memorable demonstration of this trope in action. Someone throws a glass as Dylan's party is arriving at a hotel. Dylan, for whatever reason, seems to have deemed some man named Frank as the guilty party. Frank, who is obviously intoxicated, says he's "pissed." An enraged Dylan takes this to be the American meaning of the word, and shouts "Don't tell me you're pissed!"
  • 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, it's small, alright, and it's concise and there's pictures in it, you know? It's a certain class of people, it's 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 gonna read Newsweek, I'm not gonna read any of these magazines, I mean 'cause they just got too much to lose by printing the truth. You know that."