What about Bob?
Should you not think twice about devoting four hours to PBS's new Bob Dylan documentary, airing on September 26 and 27? Yes, because it's definitely all right. Because you get to hear the serene, non-violent dean of folk, Pete Seeger, say "I was frantic . . . If I'd had an ax I'd chop the mike cable right now!" Because some British kid yells, "He's a fake neurotic!" Because Joan Baez, a dumped soul mate, admits she doesn't understand many of Dylan's lyrics, either. Because Dylan stood near Martin Luther King, Jr., when the latter said, "I have a dream." Because while American society, culture, and music were all convulsing during the 1960s, Dylan was in the middle of it all.
Martin Scorsese's film (yes, that Scorsese) on PBS, No Direction Home, centers on one of these convulsions, the concert moment in 1965 when Dylan picked up an electric guitarstarting rumors that Seeger was going after him with an axeand made it clear that the man who wrote Blowin' In The Wind wasn't going to be Woody Guthrie but something else.
The film becomes unstuck in time, traveling back to Dylan's Minnesota boyhood and his musical development in Greenwich Village folk clubs, and forward to the Beatle-esqe frenzy that greeted him on a tour of England in 1966. You see Dylan shifting shapes, shifting styles, searching for new ways to say something. "I was born very far from where I'm supposed to be," he says in one of the interview segments that dot the film. And somewhere in this movie, perhaps while watching him singing "Desolation Row," you suddenly get it: how focused he is on the music, how the words come together as poetry. And then you can understand why he mattered so much to people, and matters still. Josh Fischman