Dylan at the Movies

Always changing, ever enigmatic, and consistently relevant, Robert Allen Zimmerman, aka <strong>Bob Dylan</strong>, turns seventy this month. In celebration, the GFT is presenting a season of films looking back over the career of the inimitable songwriter and musician

Article by David McGinty | 26 Apr 2011

The five films which make up the Dylan at the Movies strand have been carefully selected by curator Dr Pasquale Iannone, who, rather than opting for more conventional documentaries, has chosen to screen films which explore and better represent Dylan’s unique relationship with cinema.

Though there are a great many films that are in some way Dylanesque, a most notable absence from the season’s lineup is Martin Scorcese’s No Direction Home, by and large the most conclusive Dylan documentary in terms of its scope and extensive research. The film that does occupy this introductory and biographical role in the programme is Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There (3 May), and truly there is as much to learn about the inscrutable singer from this unconventional multi-actor biopic as there is from any of the talking heads of No Direction Home. Featuring an all-star cast of Dylan incarnations, the film explores the varying aspects of his personality and self-made mythology through each of the actors' identities and interpretations.

The highlight of the season is undoubtedly the screening of D.A. Pennebaker’s Don’t Look Back on Dylan’s birthday (24 May), which will be followed by a panel discussion chaired by John Cavanagh. To call Don’t Look Back influential does it about as much justice as describing Blowin’ in the Wind as whistle-able. Pennebaker’s film has not only served as the model and watermark for music documentaries since, but also significantly affected documentary filmmaking as a whole thanks to his unobtrusive style and fly-on-the-wall approach (not an easy feat considering his camera was barely portable by today’s standards). The film captures Dylan in a state of flux just prior to ‘going electric’; the fragile relationships within his entourage are exposed and the film provides great insight into Dylan’s renowned press conferences, where he would give captivating and provocative performances in front of journalists.


Perhaps the most intriguing inclusion is Fellini’s La Strada (10 May), which apparently greatly influenced the young songwriter, inspiring Mr. Tambourine Man. Thankfully at least one Dylanologist will be on hand to introduce each film, contextualising the individual screenings in terms of its association with the singer.

As well as Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (17 May) for which the man of the hour provided the soundtrack and a cameo appearance, the GFT will also be showing the Dylan directed Renaldo & Clara; featuring many of his inner circle the film is rarely seen and far from widely available in any format. Whilst the strand is providing a great opportunity to see any of these films on the big screens once again, it is this showing (29 May) that presents a real treat to the fans, proving that even after seventy years there’s still a rarity or two to entice the die-hards.

Screenings throughout May. A ticket for all five films can be purchased for £30 (£22.50)