The most disappointing thing about Joel Gilbert's documentary Dylan Revealed now available on DVD in time for Dylan's 70th birthday is that in all of its 110 minutes there isn't even one sample of the man singing, let alone a complete song. There is plenty of concert footage, but it is always film accompanied by talking head voiceover rather than the music. When there is music, it seems from the credits to be the music of a tribute band.
While a documentary about a musician that fails to include the man's music may not make a lot of sense, what the film does have is a lot of film from the singer's long career that it claims has never been seen before. Unfortunately the quality of much of this film is not always up to par. More often than not, it is taken from home movies shot by amateurs. For example there is film of Dylan on his 1966 Electric World Tour which was taken by drummer Mickey Jones who does the bulk of the narration about this period of Dylan's career. In the first half of the concerts Dylan would do an acoustic set, and Jones would go out and film from the audience. He'd get one of the roadies to film the second half when he was on stage. This is supplemented by film of Dylan and his entourage as they travel from country to country. Some of it is interesting, but after awhile it's like watching your brother-in-law's vacation movies. I mean "Bob Dylan visits Elsinore" and D. A. Pennebaker in and out of his top hat leave something to be desired.
The film is less a biography than it is a look at various more or less significant moments in the singer's career, although by no means all significant moments. It begins in 1962 with his Columbia recording contract, the dismal sales of his early recordings, and the problems this caused for legendary producer John Hammond. It jumps ahead to the Dylan goes electric period, and essentially makes the point that those who think he was selling out for the money are wrong. In fact, the poor reception his electric sets got from audiences cost him fans and money. Mickey Jones describes the cat calls and booing that greeted the electric portion of the concerts, a description that has been echoed recently by Robbie Robertson as he makes the talk show rounds in support of his new album.