Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I'm Not There (2007)

A cartoon in a recent New Yorker mag depicted two bums leaning against a wall, one saying "So which Dylan do you want to be?"

Which one indeed...such is the subject of Todd Haynes' audacious film I'm Not There, in which six actors play various aspects of the many personas of Bob Dylan.

I would love to know what Bob Dylan thinks of this film. Todd Haynes has created an audacious experimental film about an icon, which (for me at least) is one of the best American films I'd seen in years, and also one of the most imaginative.

In exploring the various "lives" of Bob Dylan, Haynes imagines and reimagines Dylan as a young black Woody Guthrie-inspired teenager (Marcus Franklin); a sell-out film star (Heath Ledger); a funny interviewee named "Arthur Rimbaud" (Ben Whishaw); a born again lost soul (Christian Bale); a Billy the Kid inspired Old West hero (Richard Gere) and the most inspired casting choice of Cate Blanchett as a "Don't Look Back" mid-1960's Dylan named Jude Quinn.

Needless to say this film is not a bio-pic but a fantasia on persona(s). It doesn't really matter if you don't know much about Bob Dylan's life, but it does help to catch some elusive references (i.e., the collaboration with the Band and "The Basement Tapes" totally eluded me, until a fellow film fanatic brought it up).

The film is episodic and enjoyable while not following a linear narrative. Ideally it should be watched on a late afternoon, and the images pour over you like late winter sun. Enjoy the ride.

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