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October 9, 2007

I'm Not There, 2007

NotThere.gifTodd Haynes's I'm Not There is an audacious and ingeniously conceived, if overlong and diluted free verse composition on the enigma of legendary artist, iconoclast, seeker, and voice of a generation, Bob Dylan. Haynes's idiosyncratic portrait of the artist as a loosely interwoven collage of overlapping incarnations filmed in different stylistic genres that reflect the inhabited personas embodied by Dylan is particularly inspired. Illustrated as a picaresque adventure, Dylan is a charismatic, young drifter with a nebulous (and seemingly troubled) past named Woody Guthrie (Marcus Carl Franklin), whose penchant for outmoded folksongs reflects his old soul. Shot as a grainy, early television broadcast, he metamorphoses into poet, Arthur Rimbaud (Ben Whishaw) whose writing reflected a sense of indulgent, libertine anarchy. Presented as a 1950s rebellious youth film, he is tortured artist, Jack Rollins (Christian Bale) seeking to maintain the relevance of his music in turbulent times. Framed as a 1970s, "me generation" film, he is an alienated rock star, Robbie (Heath Ledger) struggling between the temptations (and excesses) of celebrity and his failing marriage. Depicted as newsreel footage, he is a misunderstood, chameleon-like personality, Jude (Cate Blanchett), whose creative integrity (and sincerity) comes under attack in the face of his increasing musical and recreational experimentation. And finally, filmed as a western, he is a reclusive outlaw, Billy the Kid (Richard Gere), still haunted by the shadows of his legendary fame. Using parallel personality traits as a means of self-referentially that connects the disparate personas - Woody and Jack's search for salt of the earth authenticity, Arthur and Jude's (implied) sexual ambiguity, Robbie and Jude's disillusionment with fame - Haynes creates an initially cohesive portrait of the artist as a young man that ultimately unravels under the weight of increasingly indulgent and only marginally connected vignettes (most notably, in the inclusion of the uninvolving, hermetic Billy the Kid persona which does little to expound on the Dylan enigma).

Posted by acquarello on Oct 09, 2007 | | Filed under 2007, New York Film Festival


Thems is fightin' words. Not with me, of course, because I also could have done without the whole Billy the Kid sequence and had a film completely composed of Blanchett (who I loved in this performance); but, seems like every time I talk to someone about this they just go on and on about that Billy the Kid sequence. Clearly, this has something to do with which phase of Dylan's ouevre we were touched by? And which--as you say--incarnation we related to?

Posted by: Maya on Oct 13, 2007 4:09 AM | Permalink

Really? I actually thought the film would have been just right if it ended where Bobby picks up the children from Claire, and not diverge into the Billy the Kid segment which really felt a bit indulgent. You're right though about the identification aspect. I guess I'm not in the introspective, "looking back on my life" phase yet. :)

Posted by: acquarello on Oct 13, 2007 12:34 PM | Permalink

...and having just turned 54 this weekend, looking back's become something of a bad habit with me. Heh. I was talking with James Rocchi the other day about films we'd seen at Toronto that really deserve a second screening outside of that frantic milieu. I'm Not There is definitely one of them. Emotionally, it didn't quite work for me; but, intellectually, I was quite intrigued.

Posted by: Maya on Oct 15, 2007 10:35 AM | Permalink

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