The life of legendary singer-songwriter Bob Dylan will be depicted for the first time in a feature-length film in No Direction Home, airing tonight and Tuesday night on PBS at 9. This biographical documentary, directed by Martin Scorsese, details the life of a man who revolutionized popular music in America. Devoted fans will enjoy this television event, but it will also expose a new generation to Dylan and explain how one man had such an extraordinary influence on the art of song.
No Direction Home follows the 2004 release of Dylan’s best-selling memoir Chronicles: Volume 1 but provides some special features that will not be seen anywhere else. The two-part film chronicles the life of Dylan, paying specific attention to the period from 1961 through 1966. The Bob Dylan Archives supplied rare, unseen footage of performances, studio recording sessions and interviews with Dylan and other artists. Video recordings of Dylan’s performances at the 1963, 1964 and 1965 Newport Folk Festivals, unreleased outtakes from D.A. Pennebaker’s documentary Don’t Look Back and an extensive interview with Dylan about this momentous phase in his career are only a few of the film’s exclusive offerings. Dylan’s worldwide fan base also played a role in the film’s production as fans contributed rare memorabilia from their Dylan collections, demonstrating their enduring devotion to the musical icon.
The filmmaking genius of Scorsese coupled with Dylan’s unmatched musical talent has created major buzz about No Direction Home. Producers at PBS and BBC, both of which will be airing the film, have been excited about the project since they began discussing it several years ago. Dylan had an abundance of material stored in archives; it was more about finding someone who could piece it together to tell one of the greatest stories in American popular music.
The man who owes his directing fame to films such as Raging Bull, Goodfellas and The Aviator shares something in common with the film’s star: They are both passionate about music. Scorsese executive produced the music miniseries The Blues, the concert film Lightning in a Bottle and directed the documentary The Last Waltz. Coincidentally, Scorsese had previously filmed Dylan while working on The Last Waltz, which portrayed the farewell concert of The Band, a group of musicians whom Dylan worked closely with during his career.
“I had been a great fan for many years when I had the privilege to film Bob Dylan for The Last Waltz,” Scorsese said in an interview on Bobdylan.com. “I’ve admired and enjoyed his many musical transformations. For me, there is no other musical artist who weaves his influences so densely to create something so personal and unique.”
For those who may miss the television premiere or simply want to own it for themselves, a two-disc DVD set of the special was released in stores Tuesday. The DVD version includes extensive bonus features, including exclusive performances of Dylan’s greatest hits and special footage of Dylan in a hotel room as he crafted “I Can’t Leave Her Behind.” A soundtrack is also available featuring classic Dylan songs from the film and some unreleased material recorded during the period of 1961 through 1966.
In today’s popular music landscape, where music is more about money and less about meaning, it is difficult to find an artist who has managed to remain relevant and respected for over 40 years. Dylan’s contribution to American music, particularly his songwriting efforts, will cement his status as an icon long after his career has ended. On the surface, this film is simply a biography, but when analyzed further, has achieved the complicated task of reviving and redefining the legacy of a legend. No Direction Home is highly recommended for Dylan’s loyal fans, but can also provide a new generation with the unique opportunity to rediscover a revolutionary.