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Dont Look Back 1967

D. A. Pennebaker
Documents & Documentary Modes in Literature, Films and Visual Culture PD Dr. Christina Ljungberg Salem Maamri

1. Bob Dylan the rebel-singer or the mouthpiece of the 1960s 2.The Socio-Historical Background of Direct Cinema 3. Direct Cinema in context 4. D. A. Pennebakers Dont Look Back as a new form of Direct Cinema 5.Conclusion

1. Bob Dylan the rebel-singer or the mouthpiece of the 1960 Dylan was born a Jew named Robert Allen Zimmerman on May 24, 1941, in Hibbing, Minnesota.

By adolescence he had rejected his heritage, formed several Rock and Roll bands and was seeking an escape from the suffocating confirmity of his hometown. (Heylin 20)

In 1961, he moved to New York to start a career as a folk singer, his life would be changed beyond all recognition.

He was influenced by two main musical style: folk music and Black music (RocknRoll, Blues). (Sounes 73)

Woody Guthrie

Sly and the Family Stone


During the 1960s Dylan was considered as singer with a message, a protest singer, a popular entertainer. Many of his songs such as Blowing in the Wind, The Time They Are A-Changin, Like a Rolling Stone, Forever Young, Knockin on Heavens Door, and Tangled Up in Blue were considered as the common language of the young of the late 1960s. He advocated the counterculture of the late 1960s that focused mainly on the social alienation of the youth from mainstream American life. His music was also concerned with issues such as civil rights, civil liberties, and Vietnam war. (Morgen 188)

President Barack Obama awarded Bob Dylan the Freedom Award, 29 May 2012

2.The Socio-Historical Background of Direct Cinema Direct Cinema emerged in the United States in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Direct Cinema exemplified the ideological and aesthetic shifts in the documentary form that occurred in the post World War two era. It represented a clear break with the documentary former role as a means of persuasion and propaganda of the earlier nonfiction films(especially after the WWII), such as those produced by John Grierson and the British documentary movement. The appearance of Cinma Vrit (cinema truth)had a great impact on Direct cinema. The direct cinema filmmakers were dependent on the technological innovation appeared on the 1960s. Rothman (109-110)

Portable handheld(lightweight) 16mm cameras (1960s)


3. Direct Cinema in context [Filmmakers of Direct Cinema] attempt to keep authorial intervention to a minimum by adopting a more casual, observational style that had as its premise the desire to follow action rather than dictate it, to see and record what happened to evolve in front of the cameras. (Bruzzi 74) To record people speaking their own words in their own voices. (Rothman 110) we had a whole bunch of rules. We were shooting, no tripods, no lights, no question, never ask anybody to do anything. (Leacock : interview 1999) Celebrities are the perfect subjects for direct cinema because they are used to being photographed and can therefore appear to ignore the presence of the camera. (OFarrell par. 4)


Cinma Vrit

Direct Cinema

Participatory mode Filmmakers were more concerned with the politics of involvement Overt political message

Observatory mode Filmmakers were primary concerned with the ethics of non-intervention Covert political message

(Rothman 118-120)

Albert & Davis Maysles, 1965 Albert & Davis Maysles, 1964

Robert Drew, 1960

A.D. Pennebaker, 1967 With Love from Truman (1966). Dir. Albert & Davis Maysles

4. D. A. Pennebakers Dont Look Back as a new form of Direct Cinema The film documents the 1965 Dylan British Tour. The film is an example of D.C: Pennebaker is observing Dylan without disrupting his normal behaviour. The film portrays Bob Dylan both in onstage and in backstage ( juxtaposit ion of Dylans public and private life. The film presents a celebrity that is considered as the spokesperson for the wider 1960s counterculture.


Discussion Questions
1. How can You explain Dylans different reactions in both interviews ? 2. Do You see any contradiction between Dylans on-stage and offstage personae? 3. Do You consider Dont Look back as a pure Direct Cinema documentary movie? 4. According to You what is the primary objective of Pennebaker to document Dylans 1965 British Tour in a documentary movie?


The disagreement about Dylans interviews Argument 1: The scene is, in fact, (merely) the most explicit and sustained example of a current motif that forms the dominant structural pattern of the film: a systematic critique of traditional news-gathering and reporting practices. And it serves as least as much to reveal or reflect Dylans own affectations and attitudes toward the popular press as it does to validate and celebrate Pennebakers alternative documentary aesthetic. (Hall 226) Argument 2 At certain times, Dylan seems to take delight in the interviews, and at other times he appears to be annoyed by interviewers, but both reactions are evidently calculated. Dylan appears as a masterful role player, an obfuscationist , indulging in word games and gambits, willing to spin stories which are clearly fabricated at the interviewers expense. ( Beattie 29)

Pennebakers movie is it really a direct cinema documentary? Argument 1: let Dylan Do It Directly. This is the most convenient device for pennebaker, since the cinema verit filmmaker purports not to interview, argue, or editorialize, but simply to look and to listen, himself silent and invisible. (Hall 229)

Argument 2

By privileging and , in effect, licensing Dylans off-stage performances for the camera Dont Look Back complicates the direct cinema rhetoric of detached observationalism and the claim that the presence of a camera doesnt modify a subjects behaviour. ( Beattie 30)


Argument 3 Dont Look Back demonstrates how this strategy(observation) can work: the fact that Pennebaker follows a popular singer and media personality allows him to adhere to the direct cinema rules, resisting direct interviews on the basis that his observational watching has an inbuilt mise en abme structure: he watches and records other members of the media with his camera as they use their use their cameras and tape recorders to interview Dylan. (OFarrell par. 4)

Contradiction between Dylans on-stage and offstage persone

Because Dylan is kept constantly under the cameras surveillance, certain salient features of his personality emerge clearlya taut, indrawn quality even when he is among friends, his tension as he prepares for a performance, a pseudo-intellectual arrogance (as in his interview with a hapless Time reporter), and a subcutaneous hostility toward friend and fan alike. All this is in fascinating contradiction to his onstage personality, in which he gives every appearance of trying desperately to connect with his audience. (I want to be with yeew! he beseeches in one of his songs.) (knight, cited in Hall 227) In one particular interview, with the correspondent for Time magazine(Horace Judson), Dylan launches a verbal attack on Judson and steps out of the role of the interviewee by asking Judson unanswerable questions. The scene is unsettling Dylan , the man of peace indulging in verbal aggression. (Beattie 29)

5. Conclusion

Dont look Back is carefully edited and structured, combining an observational approach with a strong personal perspective and editorial line(OFarrell par. 4). The movie also suggests a moving away from direct cinemas original journalistic impulse, towards what Rothman(149) has described as a collaboration in which filmmaker and subject are co-conspirators.

Primary Sources Dont Look Back. Dir. D. A. Pennebaker. Docurama, USA 1967. Secondary Sources Beattie, Keith. Its not only Rock and Roll: Rocumentary, Direct Cinema, and Performative display. Australasian Journal of American Studies Vol. 24, No. 2, 2005: 21-41. Bruzzi, Stella. New Documentary: A Critical Introduction. London: Routledg, 2000. Hall, Jeanne. Dont you ever just watch?: American Cinma Vrit and Dont Look Back, in Barry Keith Grant and Jeanette Sloniowski (Eds), Documenting the Documentary: Close Readings of Documentary Film and Video. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1998.

Heylin, Clinton. Bob Dylan: Behind The Shades: A Biography. NY: Summit Books, Cop. 1991. Morgan, Edward P. The 60s Experience: Hard Lessons about Modern America. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991. OFarrell, Tim. No Direction Home: Looking Forward from Dont Look Back. Senses of Cinema 38 (2006), <http://www.sensesofcinema.com/2006/38/no_direction_home> (accessed October 20, 2012). Rothman, William. Documentary Film Classics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Sounes, Howard. Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan. London: Doubleday, 2001.