Byline: Mark Guarino Daily Herald Music Critic
No one has added more to the mythologizing of Bob Dylan than Bob Dylan. In interviews, stage performances and a recent best-selling book, Dylan has goaded his obsessive legion with behavior and commentary seemingly designed to keep them wondering and wanting more.
Two more Dylan products in stores recently help the cause. The first is "The Other Side of the Mirror" (Sony Legacy), a DVD of Dylan's landmark performances at the Newport Folk Festival between 1963 and 1965. Directed by Murray Lerner, the film follows Dylan's first transformative phase, in this case from owlish boy wonder to leather-clad rascal.
Even at a brief 83 minutes, the film is effective in showing this, especially considering it took Martin Scorsese two nights of PBS airtime to do the same. Here, the story is familiar - Dylan, a boy with a strange but deep nasally voice, is trotted out for the folk revivalists, only to return the third year a man backed by an electric rock band that shocks and awes the crowd and the generation to come.
There are no talking-head interviews or offstage banter. Instead, Lerner wisely arranges effective performance clips - sometimes whole, other times abbreviated - as steps showing both Dylan's development and growing irritation at being categorized as something that felt flat and used.
Both the folk elders and girlfriend Joan Baez treat Dylan like a pet in the first two years. Even at such a young age (she was only 22 in 1963), Baez is weighed with self-importance. "I like kids, it's just idolatry's a little weird ... I don't mind if they act like a bunch of monkeys, it's sweet," she says at one point after signing autographs.
Her strange fascination with Dylan is understandable. With his dusty voice coming out of a body that looks only adolescent, he could be an alien. There is no more peculiar visual than watching the young Dylan onstage, surrounded by the academic and grizzled members of the folk revival, choosing to sing of iron-ore towns ("North Country Blues").
Nevertheless, the performances from this early folk period are riveting. Dylan's command of songs like "Talkin' World War III Blues" and "Only A Pawn in Their Game" shows an assurance that remains remarkable and gives perspective to the music's transformation that was just around the corner. …