Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Movie review: Dylan touched the best and brightest at the Newport Folk Festival, '63 to '65

Bob Dylan
Originally uploaded by Robinson Film Center
Just before long hair, beards and flowing cotton blouses became the mode, well-born young Americans in madras shirts and khaki shorts pondered the civil rights movement and watched black storytellers like the Rev Gary Davis at the Newport Folk Festival.

Prosperous, well-educated young America was a hungry crowd. They sensed that the lifestyle being offered them by their parents was ridiculously provincial.

Amidst them walked young Bob Dylan, in his Pete Seeger-style work shirt and lace-up shoes. He was the essence of inquiring, conscience-driven ("Blowin in the Wind") young America. He had a gift for imagery ("Hey, Mr Tambourine Man") and storytelling. He was an entertainer via Woodie Guthrie and other authentic visionaries.

In the documentary Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival you can almost smell the yearning of handsome young East coast Americans for an alternative to pop culture. They sought a way to protest racial inhumanity and war and to do it poetically.

For them, Dylan was a magician.

In the Newport Folk Fest documentary cameras are tightly trained upon him. His gifts of humor, mesmerizing simplicity and elegant word play are apparent.

Dylan became the pied piper. The Newport audience, looking like 3000 young cousins of JFK, were an army primed for a quest. And they almost uncontrollably devoured Dylan.

A highly recommendable piece of history and a meditation upon the role of the bard, this 83-minute movie is known as "The Other Side of the Mirror: Bob Dylan Live at the Newport Folk Festival, 1963 - 1965."

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