Simply astounding, an absolute masterpiece, NO DIRECTION HOME is certainly the best Dylan (if not music) doc ever made.
It is remarkable that the time has finally come for Dylan to be reflective upon his transition from folk troubadour to electric innovator. Tracing the time from his youth in Minnesota to his bike accident that cause him to stop touring for months, this is an intimate yet epic history of that period of “message” music. You see footage never assembled before, often with the audience booing the shift in musical cultures.
Many musical touchstones are addressed, from the Pete Seeger reaction at Newport to Dylan’s namesake (or lack thereof). There is no need for a voiceover to direct the flow of the story, as interviews and performances are seamlessly woven together to tell the tale with absolute precision. Of the many interview subjects, Joan Baez comes across as the most honest and engaging of the bunch, completely open and frank about her own issues, and the strangeness of the times. Her impromptu performance shows she still has the range that made her famous, but her stridency has been replaced by a philosophical self-reflectivity that’s truly engaging.
Dylan himself is about as outgoing and engaging as he’s ever been on film, talking frankly about his own rise to fame and fortune. His own comments about his political stances, his confrontation with the old guard, and his musical path are a joy to listen to. Historical footage of press conferences shows his absolute mastery of the press who seem completely befuddled by this supposed voice of a generation. What comes across in the entirety of this production is a musical innovator completely committed to his musical muse, unafraid to be assailed by audiences and critics alike while innovating all the time.
With its bravado and scope the film shames lesser docs. NO DIRECTION HOME is quite simply a wonderful gift to the history of musical expression, and should not be missed. Here’s to the second volume tracing his chaotic and musically diverse period through to contemporary recordings.