It’s great to see Scorsese return to his love and respect of music in documentary form. Of course, the first time he did a music documentary, the result was what many consider to be the best musical performance film of all time; The Last Waltz. He has always paid special attention to rock and roll music in his films, from using Cream in a gangster film (Goodfellas) to The Moody Blues in a film about old Las Vegas (Casino). Music has played an interesting and important role in all of Scorsese’s fi…ms, no matter the theme.
No Direction Home is more than just a documentary about Bob Dylan. It approaches The Beatles Anthology in both its superior style and its importance as a historical record. This is not just a film about a rock musician, this is a film about the consummate rock musician. Uncle Bob is an entire generation all wrapped up into one man. In the Southern part of the United States, the importance of getting the stories of the eldest generation onto tape is often discussed, as so much of their lives are still passed down today through the oral tradition. This 2-disc documentary is a very similar idea, as so much of it is made up of Dylan discussing his childhood, his early days in music and on into his career. The result is a record of a life that is both important and utterly captivating.
It is really cool to hear some of these old Dylan recordings remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1. Even though these recordings have come from so many varied sources, this disc has been wonderfully mastered, which makes for a very clean and even audio presentation. Levels are pretty consistent, with the musical recordings being slightly louder than the dialog (the way it should be). The soundtrack for this disc is available as the next disc in the Bob Dylan bootleg series, and as far as I am concerned, the documentary itself is a companion piece to this album. Lucky for us, the quality of the audio does the art justice.
As bad as I want to, I can’t give this set a perfect video rating in good conscience. Much of this film is made up of archival footage of not only Dylan, but many other performers of the day. Naturally, many of these clips are very old television broadcasts, and have not been cared for over the years. Even so, I was still really pleased with both the quality and the feel of these old clips. There is something immensely satisfying about seeing grainy old performance footage that has not been seen in almost 50 years. The grain and the dust, while certainly not high on “quality”, is definitely high on style. This, coupled with the excellent quality of the new footage, makes this a really slick looking documentary, as one would expect from Martin Scorsese.
Special features are something of a mixed bag in this set. After all, when it comes to a documentary release, the feature itself is already something of a special feature, isn’t it? Nevertheless, there are no fewer than seven special bonus performances included here, as well as an early music video and a recording of Dylan working on a new song in a recording studio. Plus, let’s be honest… the feature itself is about four-hours long, and that’s why you are here in the first place. Maybe there aren’t a lot of “special features” here, but there is plenty of content.
While this film is titledNo Direction Home, the irony is that Dylan has been traveling in a very definite direction since he first hit the road as a young man. This immensely important artist has never had his tale told in this way before, and it has taken one of America’s finest directors to properly tell his story. My only hope is that he will continue this story by making a companion film that focuses on the second half of Dylan’s career. Clearly, there is much more story to tell, and Scorsese is just the man to tell it.
Special Features List
- Seven Bonus Performances
- Unused Promotional Spot for “Positively 4th Street”
- “I Can