Directed By: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Bob Dylan, B.J. Rolfzen, Dick Kangas
Trivia: Columbia/SME Records, Sony Music, and Bob Dylan's management gave Martin Scorsese access to its vaults, something Dylan has never given to any documentary filmmaker
Aired in 2005 as an episode of the American Masters PBS Television series, this documentary, directed by Martin Scorsese, provides insight into the early career of singer/songwriter Bob Dylan. Spanning the years 1961 to 1966, No Direction Home covers his rise as an icon in the folk community all the way through to the moment his fan base turned on him, accusing the entertainer of going ‘commercial’ with the release of his 1965 album, Bringing It All Back Home, which featured Dylan performing with an electric band. This was a crucial period in Dylan’s history, one that merited closer examination, and No Direction Home delivers, giving us as in-depth an expose on the subject as we’re likely to see.
Over the years (and by way of various interviews), Dylan has firmly established himself as one of the most elusive personalities in the music industry, which is why No Direction Home proved such a pleasant surprise. It’s all here, from those who influenced his earliest work, like Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash and Pete Seeger, to his own successful career in folk music, and culminating in the mid-1960’s, when songs like “Maggie’s Farm” and “Like a Rolling Stone” hit the Billboard charts, while at the same time alienating a large portion of Dylan’s most fervent admirers, who would forever view their hero as a traitor, a singer who turned his back on the music that made him famous just so he could sell more records. While playing a concert in Great Britain, he’s booed by the crowd, with one person going so far as to call him “Judas”. Dylan’s response? He told his band to play the next number “fucking loud”.
As a fan of Dylan’s, I thoroughly enjoyed No Direction Home; it brought into focus a performer I have always admired, revealing his accomplishments as well as his trials and tribulations. An artist who’s never invited analysis of his own work, I liked learning as much as I did about Bob Dylan from this all-encompassing documentary.