Why is D.A. Pennebaker's Don't Look Back considered a modern classic? The 1967 film is one of the standard-bearers of '60s cinema verite, but it's more likely to make you sick than to make you think; watching it -- especially on a big screen -- is like riding a roller coaster after power-munching a six-pack of mustard-coated corn dogs. Pennebaker's film, which captures 23-year-old Bob Dylan on his 1965 tour of England and on the cusp of superstardom, is a sucking maelstrom of turbulent, hand-held realism, jump cuts, choppy editing, backstage melodrama and Dylan performances that are, more often than not, cut off at the knees mid-song. The Last Waltz it's not; of course, it wasn't intended to be. As the filmmaker points out in the press kit, "What I wanted to do was just be present when Dylan enacted his whole life, and show ... what he deals with and what interests him." And, boy, does Dylan enact. In the beginning, the former Robert Zimmerman comes across as an intensely charismatic, somewhat unassuming guy from the Minnesota sticks; by film's end, he's devolved into a smug, shades-wearing bastard who toys with the minds of lesser mortals -- mostly that Scottish Dylan knockoff Donovan and a couple of print journalists -- just because he can. But both sides of Dylan existed and contributed to his development as one of the century's great musicians/thinkers; Pennebaker's achievement was documenting the flash point in time when Dylan's personality poles diverged. 8 tonight; 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday. The Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet. Info: 639-7515. $5; $4 for the matinee.
L.A. performance artist Keith Antar Mason based his work In My Living Condition on the 1992 Rodney King beating and ensuing LAPD trial and riot. Mason calls it a "constantly evolving performance ritual" that "poses questions about the place and condition of black men in the ... last years of the 20th century." Opening performances are at 7:30 tonight, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. Through June 28. Renaissance Performing Arts Center, 400 Northline Mall, Suite 308, 695-7469. $10 to $15.
The three-week Houston Lesbian and Gay Pride 1998 fest debuts with tonight's kickoff/toga party from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. at Riva's, 1117 Missouri. Other opening-week highlights include the Houston Gay Pride 5K Fun Run at 7:45 a.m. Saturday (Fonde Recreation Center, 110 Sabine), the sports-oriented Pride Jamboree '98 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday (Memorial Park), Miss Camp America, Inc.'s big-fake-hair blowout "Wigs on Fire ... The Heat Is On" from 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday (Rich's, 2401 San Jacinto) and the opening of performance artist Tim Miller's Shirts & Skin at 8 p.m. Wednesday (Theater LaB Houston, 1706 Alamo). The HLGP confab continues through July 5. Info: 529-6979; www.pridehouston.org.
The second Houston Gay & Lesbian Film Festival goes out with a double bang: the local premieres of Peoria Babylon and Paul Monette: The Brink of Summer's End. Director/writer Steven Diller's Babylon is a madcap farce with a merrily convoluted plot about "voluptuous beauty" Candy Dineen (Ann Cusack) and "gay fashion victim" Jon Ashe (David Drake), who co-own "the most prestigious ... art gallery in Peoria, Illinois." Desperate for cash and notoriety (their "prestigious" gallery is also the only one in town), they hatch a harebrained plot to borrow a collection of masterpieces and destroy them in an act of terrorism. Paul Monette has a more elegiac tone. Writer/director Monte Bramer's profile of the late activist/author (Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir, Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story) stands as a tribute to a person who watched two of his lovers die and, in a sense, foresaw his own death (all three men died of AIDS, Monette in '95). Babylon: 3 p.m. today. Monette: 7:30 tonight and Sunday (Bramer is scheduled to attend both screenings; Q&As follow each, and an off-site reception for the filmmaker precedes Sunday's show). The Rice Media Center, Rice University entrance 8 (University and Stockton), 527-4853. More info: 914-5037. $5; $4 for Rice students and seniors. (For details about the other films in the HGLFF's final weekend, see page 42 .)
Two of our favorite pursuits -- art and amusement -- collide in "Putt-Modernism: An Eighteen-Hole Miniature Golf Course and Exhibition"; yep, we're talking about functioning minigolf holes designed by the likes of Mel Chin, Cindy Sherman, Sandy Skoglund, John Dieboll, Frank Gehry and Elizabeth Enders. It opens for play with a reception from 7 to 9 tonight and continues through August 9. Blaffer Gallery, University of Houston entrance 16 (off Cullen Boulevard), 743-9528. Viewing is free; the "putter" fee is $5, $3 for kids. (Blaffer's silver-anniversary party, "Studio 25," follows the reception.)
Two towering tunesmiths of Texas play musical tit for tat in "Song Swap": Guy Clark and Terry Allen. Rockport-born Clark's better known, but Allen (a graduate of songwriting's venerated Lubbock School) might be better; Terry'll almost surely tackle Guy's standards "L.A. Freeway" and "Desperados Waiting for a Train," and Clark is likely to interpret Allen material like "New Delhi Freight Train" and "Cocktails for Three." 6 and 8:30 p.m. today; 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Monday (the early shows are smoke-free). McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk, 528-5999. $20.
Decorated author Ron Chernow (The House of Morgan, The Death of the Banker) discusses his new book, Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller. Brazos Bookstore is the sponsor of the appearance/luncheon, which starts at noon at the Houston Club, 811 Rusk. Book purchase is required, as are reservations; call 225-1661. More info: 523-0701. The $19 admission is separate.