"I don't need to tell you, you know him, he's yours."
"People thought of him as their mirror, but he was something else." ~Murray Lerner, "Interview with director Murray Lerner," The Other Side of the Mirror
On the surface Murray Lerner's The Other Side of the Mirror is a documentary of Bob Dylan's performances at the Newport Folk Festival between 1963 and 1965. The 83-minute film, issued here for the first time on DVD, is a nearly chronological collection of these performances, with no narration and little editing. However, the film is iconic in the Dylan mythology. The Other Side of the Mirror is Lerner's contribution to the image of Dylan as the enigma: Here, he is poet, hero, populist, celebrity, rebel, lover, comic, politico.
The director achieves this by capturing how perfect the context of these performances was for Dylan. The setting alone was like a lab situation, as the festival granted the artist both a captive audience and an internationally recognized stage -- a perfect storm for change, if you will. Here, Dylan and his rapidly growing talent provided release for the confusing swirl of current affairs. Lerner recognized this quickly and fixed his camera each year almost solely on Dylan and allowed sound to move each shot. Such loving gazes created long stretches of intimacy that were jarringly broken (intentionally) by the eruption of audience rapture. The growing fever pitch from year to year merely gauged Dylan's increasing impact.
Like the title suggests, the film provides a meta-look at Dylan. It is a dream for any fan of rock music because it captures an iconic artist at a key juncture in both his personal history and his nation's history. But the film is not just a passive document of sound and image. The Other Side of the Mirror is Lerner's active tribute to an artist that seized both talent and opportunity to capture the public's imagination and make them chant in unison -- at least for a moment -- yes, we can.
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