It’s time to take up the idea I had a week ago (Clean Cut Kitchen), and talk about that Dylan video my friend Laurent posted on Facebook back then. It was an official video using footage taken from the cult classic movie “Renaldo and Clara.” The film, directed by Bob Dylan, was shot in 1975 while touring the USA with his Rolling Thunder Revue. It was made in the “cinema verité” style following D.A. Pennabaker documentary shooting techniques based on Dziga Vertov‘s Kino-Eye theory. The video shows Dylan’s face in a close up taken by a static camera.
My friend introduced his post like this: “Just look at his face.”
I had already seen it. In fact, I have it in my collection as it was released on the DVD included on the Limited Edition of the Bootleg Series Vol. 5 – Bob Dylan Live 1975 (2002.)
Never thought of it from a technical point of view, though. This time, however, for some reason, I started watching it as a filmmaker, from a professional perspective.
I just thought it was not only an astonishing live version, but the filming of his performance in such a close up was superb. Laurent said to me that, to be true, this was the essence of his Bobness. Hahaha! Well, it is true, it really captured the essence of Dylan’s performing art but, as I said, someone put the lights on the right places, set the camera up in the right location… and someone else took the exceptional shoot with the right angle, the suitable objective and the accurate diaphragm aperture. What is more, it had to be taken with a teleobjective, which implied it was easy to run out of focus when the performer moved his head, so the cameraman was probably concerned to keep the image focused all the way through. Of course, the filmmaker was Dylan himself, but I guessed he must have had someone very good an expert to advice him.
Following my friend Laurent indications I googled Howard Alk, editor and cameraman, to find out he was a long time friend and collaborator of Bob Dylan, who was responsible for the filming and photography of “Renaldo and Clara.” They also worked together on the movie edition. Looks like, though uncredited, he was also a collaborator in Pennabaker’s “Don’t Look Back” and helped Dylan out with the editing task on “Eat The Document.”
So, regarding this Tangled Up In Blue video footage, we must conclude Howark Alk was brilliant; someone with amazing skills as a film maker, as cinematographer. No doubt he was also a great light operator and cameraman. Those jobs might have been made by two different fellow technicians of the camera team, but in this case it seems like it was all Alk’s work. Sadly, he died too soon, at 52, in January 1982. He had just filmed a few concerts of Bob Dylan’s 1981 tour. May he Rest In Peace.
The Hypnotist Collector