Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I'm Not There - The Movie

With the release of the new Dylan biopic I'm Not There and the accompanying soundtrack, I've once again immersed myself in Bob's universe. I'm usually there most of the time anyway, but every so often events like this film/soundtrack remind me how vast Bob's universe really is. I'm not a film critic, and I'm quite sure I'm not equipped to provide an impartial review, but Todd Hayne's new film is a dream come true for Dylan fans, so chock full of detail that my head was spinning. I actually wanted to watch the film again, that same night.

Haynes does the right thing by approaching this film in a challenging and experimental way. A Hollywood biopic in the style of Ray or Walk The Line would be predictable, a little boring, and would not even begin to explain the complexities of Dylan. In choosing to portray Dylan with six different actors, none of which actually are Bob, Haynes blends the correct proportions of symbolism and fact. As a result, we get a wonderfully complex story of six lives that are woven together to tell Bob's story, or parts of it anyway. Significant points in Dylan's history are inserted into the fictional accounts, such as Bob's visit to Woody Guthrie's deathbed or his rural appearances during the Civil Rights Movement. Cate Blanchett's turn as Jude Quinn represents Dylan during the frantic 1965-66 period in England, and is the most literal representation. Her performance is phenomenal. We also get Heath Ledger playing a actor who reminds us of Bob in the early 70s, living in California, marriage on the rocks. Ledger's character played Jack Rollins (Dylan circa 1963, played in the film by Christian Bale) in a film within the film. It's like a kaleidoscope, endlessly spinning, but still giving us a constant focal point. For an artist as complex as Dylan, the film fits like a glove.

Oh and the details! Haynes is obviously a Dylan fanatic as he has peppered the film with obsessive detail, such as sporadically inserting a line of song lyrics into the dialogue, or naming songs of the fictitious Dylans with actual working titles of Bob's own songs. The Cate Blanchett scenes pay homage to Dont Look Back, as the hotel room, limousine and the cinematography are nearly recreated. I could go on and on. The film is currently playing in limited release in smaller theaters, and won't be released to widespread commercial theaters until next Spring. In this limited distribution the film is definitely playing to a captive audience; I sensed that everyone in the theatre was a Dylan fan. It will be interesting to see how the film will be received by a larger audience. Someone with little Dylan knowledge might be completely befuddled. For Dylan fans though, it feels like Christmas came early this year.

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