D.A. Pennebaker still remembers the look on young Bob Dylan’s face. The 26-year-old singer was watching himself in Pennebaker’s soon-to-be released documentary, “Don’t Look Back.“” Dylan appeared … well, stunned is a good word. “I think the first time he saw it, he went into shock,“” Pennebaker recalls, laughing slightly. “He had no idea that one camera sitting on one guy’s shoulder could make him feel so naked.“”
The chastened Dylan returned a night later, watched it again, then gave his OK to Pennebaker’s film. Now, three decades later, the director’s chronicle of Dylan’s three-week 1965 British tour returns this month in an enhanced DVD version released by New Video. “I’ve always admired Dylan for letting (the film) go the way it was,“” Pennebaker says. “That was something a lot of lesser talents – and a lot of greater talents – would have had trouble doing.“”
Pennebaker’s critically acclaimed documentary, released in 1967, stands the test of time – although its creator once felt the 96-minute film would never see a theatrical release. It was the kindness of several West Coast pornographic theaters that changed that, he says – in particular, The Presidio in San Francisco. “This group of Western theaters was showing porno, and they wanted to upgrade their act,“” the self-deprecating Pennebaker recalls. “It was perfect for me, because my movie looked like porno, but it’s not.“”
The DVD comes with a bonus – five never-before-released Dylan audio performances and a previously unreleased version of the landmark cue-card flipping bit for “Subterranean Homesick Blues.“” Pennebaker’s grainy video for the Dylan tune turned out to be about 20 years ahead of its time, presaging MTV and VH1.