WE KNOW DYLAN WON’T be there – although we’re told he’s written a speech. Perhaps, instead of hotfooting it to Oslo for Saturday, December 10’s Nobel Prizegiving, he’ll be snuggled up at home, tuning into the BBC (he’ll have some kind of BBC-receiving dookickey, natch) and re-enjoying Martin Scorsese’s masterly documentary film, No Direction Home, the last word – cinematically – on his career up to the electric rupture of 1966.
“I was born very far from where I was supposed to be… Not even born to the right parents…”
“I was born very far from where I was supposed to be… Not even born to the right parents… and so, I’m on my way home,” Dylan tells the camera at one point, with a smile. But where was he going, and why, and whether he would like it when he got there, are questions Scorsese grapples with gusto.
From the first, Dylan seemed to take the folk song trope of “rambling” quite literally, and the film – a co-production with the BBC’s Arena, who premiered it back in September 2005 – is a vivid evocation of a young man in a hurry, as he channels the likes of Rambler, Gambler and Man Of Constant Sorrow, a magnet for expectations that would quickly become burdens. “I was a musical expeditionary… nothing to go back to, nobody to lean on,” he says.
Typically colourful and profound meditations on music and its power from his nibs abound (on The Clancy Brothers: “They’d take a sword, cut off your head, and then weep”) with equally revealing talking heads from Joan Baez, Liam Clancey, Bob Neuwirth, Pete Seeger, Suze Rotolo and others.
Most memorably, the rollercoaster ride from ’65 to ’66 is affectingly addressed, prompting the viewer to ask how you would feel in the middle of this maelstrom of media madness – how little the reality of being regarded a generational prophet-seer would appeal, as the world clamoured, fought and manoeuvred to touch the hem of your garment.
“Remember, Bob,” Dylan recalls Liam Clancy telling him after 15 pints of Guinness: “no fear, no envy, no meanness…”
Getting back to that kind of simplicity was what Dylan tried to do next, and no-one, having experienced No Direction Home, would have to ask, why?
No Direction Home screens on BBC Four on Friday, December 9. See press for timing info.