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Monday, October 31, 2011

"The Other Side of the Mirror", the birth of Bob Dylan's myth

The Other Side of the Mirror: Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival 
In-Edit Beefeater Festival 2011, chapter I

Our first film in this long weekend devoted to the 9th edition of the Barcelona International Music Documentary Film Festival was focused on Bob Dylan. Theoretically, the documentary was not just another one to add to the long list of works on him, but included one of the most controversial and legendary performances ever, while it chronicles Dylan's music evolution in the three successive years he appeared at Newport Folk Festival, from 1963 to 1965. 

And that's exactly what it is. A collection of full-length performances (17 songs overall) by Dylan at Newport, brilliantly filmed by director Murray Lerner (the film was broadcasted by BBC Four in 2007). So if you are looking for early live shows of Dylan, playing some of his more famous tunes "The Other Side of the Mirror" is an excellent choice. But if you are looking for an insight documentary on the relation between the Newport Festival and Dylan, you are almost wasting your time.

I say almost because we have glimpses of something more on the film, little additions that suggest there's going to be a crescendo in the documentary. Between songs, in 1963 we have a newcomer, shy Dylan that has Joan Baez as his godmother at Newport, announcing to the audience the relevance of who are they going to listen/see. Only one year after, 1964, Lerner let us, briefly, in a couple of  bursts, see how Dylan's dimension has grown enormously, being the indisputable "king" of the Festival. Crowds loves him and wants more songs, to the point of not allowing other artists to play. We also have a couple (literally) of brief chats with the audience about the importance of folk music and Dylan's relevance. I admit I was engaged by the idea everything was going to "explode" in 1965.

Because that's the year when Dylan went electric at Newport, a mythical performance that, of course, I wanted to see. But what Lerner offers is just two songs of that set, and the acoustic final comeback. Yes, we can hear Dylan received a mixed response from the crowd, but there's zero interaction with the audience, no comments from anyone, just an (in my opinion) abrupt end. 

Maybe the problem has to do more with the advertisement/information booklet of the In-Edit Festival that marketed the documentary as a must-see to understand Dylan's evolution, quoting them, "as much a sculptural moment as an involuntary criminal trial. It must be seen at all costs". Sorry but, to me, "The Other Side of the Mirror" is not that film. For Dylan fans, as myself, is a very well filmed performance documentary (one that would easily receive an excellent rating), but if you are looking for more, as I was, it will disappoint you. I recommend you to skip this one and watch Lerner's Festival! instead, a documentary from 1967 that shares some footage with this but offers a much more vivid picture of the Newport Festival, while it also includes Dylan's controversial set from 1965.

SCORE: 5/10

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