February 2, 2023
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Dylan tangled up in films at Cornell series

Bob Dylan’s songs are full of film references, from “Brownsville Girl” to “Desolation Row.” So it’s no surprise the singer has put himself on the big screen a few times throughout his 45-year career. Cornell Cinema is showcasing “Bob Dylan: On Screen,” a Dylan film festival.

“The Other Side of the Mirror: Bob Dylan Live at the Newport Folk Festival”

“The Other Side of the Mirror” traces Dylan’s appearances from 1963 to 1965 at the Newport Folk Festival and chronicles his departure from the folk scene.

In 1963 he shares the stage with Joan Baez for topical material. The next year he workshops the trippy masterpiece, “Mr. Tambourine Man.”

Dylan’s folk rebellion climaxes in 1965. Instead of performing solo, he’s backed by a rock ’n’ roll band that includes blues guitarist Mike Bloomfield. Dylan is booed throughout his electric set, which includes “Maggie’s Farm” and “Like a Rolling Stone.” He leaves after three electric songs and plays the rest acoustically.

After Newport ’65, Dylan went on to make complex material like 1966’s “Blonde on Blonde.” He didn’t appear at the festival again until 2002, and he donned a blonde wig for the occasion.

Unfortunately, “The Other Side of The Mirror” doesn’t feature interview footage. But it’s necessary for those who want to see a Dylan bold enough to turn his back on the community that first embraced him.

“Don’t Look Back”

Before the Newport appearance, Dylan embarked on a European tour that would be his last as an acoustic performer. “Don’t Look Back,” directed by D.A. Pennebaker and released in 1967, is a documentary following Dylan through this transition period.

In addition to live acoustic cuts such as “The Times They are A-Changin,’” the film features behind-the-scenes footage of him and Joan Baez playing Hank Williams’ “Lost Highway.”

“Don’t Look Back” shows Dylan cocky and irritable. He rejects autograph-seeking fans and messes with journalists, telling one, “I could tell you I’m not a folk singer and explain to you why, but you wouldn’t really understand.” Aside from Dylan’s 2004 autobiography “Chronicles,” and his narrative song “Highlands,” off 1997’s “Time Out of Mind,” fans have never gotten a closer look at him.

“65 Revisited”

“65 Revisited” is bonus footage taken from the filming of “Don’t Look Back.” It includes an alternate version of the video for “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” where Dylan tosses off lyric cue cards with Allen Ginsberg lurking in the background. It’s good — if you’re a die-hard fan.

“The Last Waltz”

This documentary, directed by Martin Scorsese, follows Dylan’s 1966 backing group, The Band, performing its 1976 farewell show at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. The Band performs spirited takes on classics such as “Evangeline.”

The nostalgic film shows the ’60s generation beginning to age. It features guest spots from Eric Clapton, Neil Young and Ringo Starr.

Drug use was heavy during the filming; during Young’s performance of “Helpless,” a white substance can be seen on his nose.

Dylan’s joins his former group for a closing set that includes ”I Shall Be Released.” His place in the film almost didn’t happen; he agreed to be filmed during intermission.

It’s a contender for the greatest rock film ever.. And as the films opening message states, “This film should be played LOUD!”

“Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid”

Dylan’s first real acting gig came in 1973 in this film, playing a cowboy role. It was panned at the time but has since gained a cult-like status.

The real treat is the Dylan-composed soundtrack that includes “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.”

“Bob Dylan: On Screen” runs through May 10. For a list of show times, go to http://cinema.cornell.edu