I recently watched Dont Look Back (1967) and Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese in outstanding Blu-ray editions from the Criterion Collection.
Rolling Thunder Revue chronicles Dylan’s 1975 tour. Scorsese made the strange decision to add fictional characters in with the real people. It makes you wonder what’s real and doesn’t add anything to the film. Howard Alk, who shot the footage in 1975 which is the basis for most of the film, doesn’t get much credit, just a brief acknowledgement in one of the supplements. Alk did a great job capturing Dylan’s performances close up. The restoration demo on the Blu-ray shows how much work went into cleaning up the footage and what a great job they did.
Dylan’s performances are excellent, much more passionate than usual for him based on the six of his concerts I have seen. Most people won’t agree but I like Desire (the 1976 album many songs here appear on) more than 1975’s Blood on the Tracks which is usually regarded as one of Dylan’s masterpieces. One of the supplements is a performance of “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You” with revised lyrics which are not as good as the original version. Dylan has revised lyrics to other songs and I have not heard one that improves on the first version. Dylan always revises his performances of songs and I admire this. He doesn’t treat the records as the definitive version. The film has a great electric version of “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall”.
“This Land is Your Land” was used to close out the concerts but it’s not in the film. It wasn’t in the Bootleg Series 5 two-disc set taken from the concerts. It was in the 14 disc set released around the same time as the Scorsese film.
I then watched Dont Look Back which in which D. A. Pennebaker documents Dylan’s 1965 tour of England. It mostly focused on interactions with the media and other people involved in the tour and has little music. It does have the great placard video for “Subterranean Homesick Blues”
Dylan is very confrontational throughout but a lot of the people he meets clearly don’t understand him.
This was a solo acoustic tour but he had already released Bringing It All Back Home which has many electric songs.
One of the musicians on the Rolling Thunder tour: