Tuesday, December 4, 2007

He's Not There But That's Okay


This is a quick mini review of I'm Not There, the Dylan biopic, or, more accurately, the Todd Haynes homage.

If you require a linear narrative do not see this film. If you are willing to think about how our life stories (all of us, not just the famous) could be described by stringing together mini narratives with archetypal characters playing us at different periods, then you might appreciate this film. Most narrative features today are fiction. This one is poetry. Different actors play different Dylans. It's not correct to say (as the press does) that different actors are playing him at different stages of his life. No. I took the premise to be that Dylan was complex and sort of embodied several different characters at once (though some might have been more prominent at different stages): folk singer, actor, cowboy, poor black child, philosopher, rock star--these are a few of the personas Haynes has chosen to represent Dylan.

What surprised me: Blanchett has been lauded for her protrayal of rock star Dylan. I found her annoying, or maybe just that character. And Christian Bale, not a great actor, really was great in this, playing the evangelical Dylan. Charlotte Gainsborg is wonderful as Claire, the wife of the Heath Ledger character (movie star Dylan); I could have seen a whole movie about their relationship. The art direction is finely detailed and imaginative: the seventies house, the white party.

I'm not a Dylan fan and this didn't make me one. I think this movie would have been more interesting about Joni Mitchell. She says that if she ever writes her autobiography the first line will be, "I was the blackest man in the room." (Or maybe she did, and maybe that is the first line. Does anyone know. I know I heard her say this once.)

In summary: it's a slog if you need things linear, but if you buy into the poetic conceit, you'll be satisfied.

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